The vast majority of people who weighed in on the Westcorp Hotel project ahead of tonight’s public hearingare in support of the sizeable development.
According to the City Clerk’s office, there have been six letters of opposition to a height variance that will allow for 33-storey construction, one letter of comment and 114 letters of support. Two additional form letters of support have also been submitted.
Among the long list of business supporters who refer to the tower as an “iconic” addition to the waterfront are the Downtown Kelowna Association, Tourism Kelowna, a number of business leaders and a couple of former politicians.
“The DKA recognizes the this under-utilized location in integral to the city’s future development composition and as such, requires a project of the highest architectural design calibre,” said Ninette Ollgaard, executive director of the DKA, in her letter.
“This long awaited proposed development will send a clear message to other potential investors and developers of what the City is envisioning an seeking in its future densification projects. Having such an iconic building in the heart of the Downtown will be an enormous boost the grand vision for our City.”
Former Mayor Walter Gray pointed out that the future is now.
“Members of Council. It is 2018. It will be early 2021 when this downtown icon is open for business and, open to the public complete with the engagements inside and out for public use and enjouyment at the developer’s cost,” said Gray.
“This project is the right use for the Willow Inn site. A hotel and building of this level of sophistication is our future.”
The opposition, though fewer in numbers in advance of the hearing, pointed to big concerns about the environment and character.
“Given that I work with the local development community, I rarely write in about a project. The form and character of this proposal is inappropriate for the location. The uses, as permitted by the zone, a hotel and a convention centre are needed and welcome, however, the form and excessive height of this project at our waterfront is not,” Birte Decloux, Urban Options, Planning and permits.
Council at tonight’s public hearing will have to weigh that input against a city staff reccomendation to not not give the project a development permit because they feel it’s too tall and bulky.
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.
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“The proposal’s overall size, height and massing are overwhelming for the subject property and its unique downtown context,” said a staff report to council. “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 was granted permission for a 26-storey hotel tower for the site. The variance permit for that work has expired and a new permit is required for the new plan, publicly released last summer. It’s a 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.
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