Artist rendering 33-storey Westcorp hotel planned for the downtown Kelowna waterfront.—Image: contributed

Kelowna council advised to reject new downtown hotel proposal

City staff say council should not give plan for a 33-storey hotel a development permit

Kelowna city staff don’t like the revised plans for a major hotel on the city’s downtown lakeshore.

The 33-storey hotel, proposed by Edmonton-based developer Westcorp, is slated for the former Willow Inn site across from Kerry Park at the foot of Queensway.

But in a report going to council Monday, city staff are recommending council not give the project a development permit because they feel it’s too tall and bulky.

“The proposal’s overall size, height and massing are overwhelming for the subject property and its unique downtown context,” says the report. “The property is in close proximity to a number of culturally significant places including Kerry Park and Stuart Park, the Sails, Okanagan Lake, the historical character of Bernard Avenue and the city hall.”

The report says in addition to creating shadows on lower nearby buildings and open space, the height and size of the hotel—including a larger than originally planned floorplate—will create an “overpowering visual presence lacking the sensitivity and integration that development of the subject property needs.”

Westcorp originally proposed a 26-storey hotel tower for the site but halted work in 2016 saying it was redesigning the project. The new plan, publicly released last summer, showed the 32-storey building featuring 49 residential suites as well as 174 hotel rooms, a restaurant on the 16th floor as well as retail space, another restaurant on the ground floor and a small convention centre.

While council approved the 26-storey height—granting a variance to allow that—and gave the project a development permit, that permit has now expired and a new one, for the revised project is required as is a variance for the new proposed height.

Westcorp vice-president Gail Temple has said the new plan keeps the elliptical shape of the building in order to maintain view corridors downtown.

Westcorp calls its development “world class,” and says the changes to the original plan were needed to make the project economically visible.

In its report to council, the city’s planning department says the new-look project is not without merit in regards to some components, calling the mixed use nature of the building “strong,” and liking the commercial space, restaurant and cafe at the ground level, the 16th floor publicly accessible restaurant and conference space. And they like the proposed interface with Kerry Park.

But the height and the size of the six-floor podium building is too much.

The tower would be the tallest building in the city at 131 metres, eclipsing the yet-to-be-built taller of two towers at One Water Street, which will be 119 metres high.

In a project rational submitted to the city by Westcorp, the company defends the height, saying it will “bookend” the downtown with the planned 36-storey and 29-storey towers at One Water Street.

As for shadows, it says there will be no major impact on other buildings. The majority of shadow will fall on Queensway beside the hotel and on the edge of nearby Stuart Park during hours and seasons of minimum use of the park.

The report will go council Monday.

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