A concept rendering of the proposed three-tower development at the corner of Leon Avenue and Water Street. (Contributed)

A concept rendering of the proposed three-tower development at the corner of Leon Avenue and Water Street. (Contributed)

Kelowna’s next tallest building receives hesitant approval from council

‘I’m afraid that because we’re so fed up, we’re just accepting something that is not in our best interest’ - Coun. Charlie Hodge

Forty-two storeys. More than 130 metres tall.

Downtown Kelowna’s next tallest building has been approved, alongside two other sizeable towers on Leon Avenue.

Council gave the green light to the massive three-tower development — which is set to be a near-complete revitalization of the street — during a Tuesday night (Jan. 12) meeting. Councillors Charlie Hodge and Gail Given were the two votes in opposition of the application made by Vancouver-based developer Anthony Beyrouti, owner of ticket reseller VenueKings.com.

At the corner of Leon and Water Street, in the heart of downtown directly adjacent to City Park, the towers will stand at 24, 28 and 42 storeys tall. Dubbed Water Street by the Park, the development is set to include 650 condo units, office space, a 727-stall parking podium, 566 long-term bike parking spots, and a bridge connecting one of the towers to the two on the opposite side of the street.

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While council approved the project, it did so with a marked hesitance. Coun. Hodge made an impassioned plea to his fellow councillors as he announced his non-support for the project.

“We’re all fed up with the state of Leon,” Hodge said, speaking to the long and ongoing social challenges in the area. “But three massive towers next to our park and so close to our waterfront is not the answer. It’s not right for Kelowna and I know that in my heart.”

City planner Terry Barton said there has been very little interest in the area from other developers, largely due to the “poor shape” the street is in. Hodge said the issues council has long dealt with on Leon should not lead councillors to approve the project out of desperation.

“I’m afraid that because we’re so fed up, we’re just accepting something that is not in our best interest,” he said.

Several letters of support for the project mentioned the state of Leon Avenue. Letters from the August Family Foundation, Global Okanagan, Prestige Hotels and Resorts, and Hotel Zed all mentioned prevalent issues, including drug use and the exodus of businesses from the street. Coun. Loyal Wooldridge said those letters “suggest gentrification like this is going to solve those social challenges.”

“It’s really important that we all step back and realize that the work that we’re doing on the social side and actually housing people is what is actually going to solve that. Not bringing wealthy people to Leon — that’s not going to solve the social challenges we have,” said Wooldridge.

Mayor Colin Basran said the pros of the project outweigh the cons, but only by a very slim margin. The mayor aired several concerns, and is doubtful work on the project will start this year, but his main priority is to finally see the revitalization of an area that “desperately needs it.”

“Given the sheer mass and density of this, that’s what happens when you have someone maybe not familiar with the local market who overpays for properties and then has to find a way to get the value out of it.

“This is a prime example of that.”

Over the course of the project’s consideration, it received little input from the public. Coun. Ryan Donn attributed this lack of participation to a changing outlook among residents regarding large, downtown developments.

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: michael.rodriguez@kelownacapnews.com


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