The principals behind plans to build a controversial, twin-tower highrise in downtown Kelowna are publicly asking Kelowna council if it is willing to forgo a long list of benefits to the city to satisfy a recent requirement that the new building be 25 feet farther from its nearest neighbour than planned.
Keith Funk, of New Town Planning, the agent for Premier Pacific Group, said it appears the main issue is that the proposed Monaco development—slated for the corner of Doyle Avenue and St. Paul Street—would be located 75 feet away from the existing Madison highrise next door, instead of 100 feet, as per the city’s new building height policy included in Kelowna’s new downtown plan.
“It appears to be distilled down to the spacial separation issue,” said Funk of the furor that has erupted surrounding plans for the Monaco.
But he added, when Kelowna’s new city council considers the seven variances needed for the project to proceed at a public hearing next week, it should take into account all the benefits he says the building will present for the city, which include:
• Hundreds of construction jobs during the two years of construction,
• A $100 million investment
• The addition of hundreds of housing units in an upscale downtown building that will be affordable by people earning less than the local median income of $53,000 per year
• Increased tax revenue for the city
• $150,000 of public art outside the building, inclusion of a not-for-profit art gallery
• Green features like green roofs, rainwater capture systems, passive solar energy glazing, a shared-car and bicycle program to reduce the number vehicles in the downtown core
• The addition of more commercial and office space downtown
• A $260,000 contribution to the city’s affordable housing reserve fund
“I really don’t feel it is in the city’s best interest to be so narrow in its thinking (to reject the plan) when those benefits are considered ,” said Funk.
City staff has recommended rejection of the variances, saying they believe the project is too bulky for the site, too tall and will create both shadows on adjacent properties and a wind tunnel effect.
Funk called the wind tunnel issue “a red herring” and said no shadows will be case on residential properties in the area.
Funk and Premier Pacific’s vice-president of marketing Tyler Dueck say they intend to show council that their proposal is actually not as bulky as another one already approved by the city for a site nearby, but not yet built.
Funk said 24, a proposed 27-storey high-rise slated for Bernard Avenue between Pandosy and St. Paul Streets, has a much bigger floor area ratio and the nearby Madison, where several residents are upset about the possibility of the Monaco being built next door, is only slightly smaller.
Unlike the Madison, Dueck said the Monaco is a not a “premium product,” meaning many of its units will be much smaller, and more affordable, to buy.
Units in the high floors will be considered premium, he said, but units on the lower and middle floors will cost in the $250,000 to $400,000 range.
Dueck said he has already received a lot of interest from potential buyers, people who want to live in an upscale highrise downtown but cannot afford it right now.
In addressing the issues raised by city staff, Funk said he will show the Monaco would not be the “bulkiest” of the existing Madison, the planned 24 and his building.
He said despite the fact there are two towers proposed for the Monaco, the Madison takes up more room on its site while 24 would be both taller and bulkiest with a floor area ration of 8.6 compared to Monaco’s 7.8.
The Monaco’s towers would be 22 storeys tall and 26 storeys tall and be offset from each other so they would not feature views directly onto the Madison.
A four-storey base building would feature the commercial units, the art gallery and nine artists’ live-in work lofts.
“We want to make this a cornerstone of the downtown arts district,” said Funk.
The 26-storey tower would be 74.3 metres tall, requiring a variance because the current maximum height for a downtown building is 44 metres tall. The Madison next door received a variance to be allowed to exceed the height allowance by 7.3 metres. While the city’s new plan allows for taller building downtown, variances are still required.
In addition to the 241 condominium units slated for the Monaco, and the live/work artists lofts, there would also be 20,000-square-feet of recreation space on the roof of the four-story base building.
Funk said by making the floor area of each tower just two metres wider on each side, the developer will be able to lower the cost of units substantially, calling the proposed pricing a breakthrough in downtown highrise pricing.
He said the market for units in premium buildings, which are larger and cost in excess of $500,000 per unit, is just not there right now in Kelowna.
And unlike condominiums in areas outside the downtown core, he believes there is demand for what the Monaco will offer.
The public hearing for the Monaco will be held Tuesday night at City Hall and there have already been more than 50 letters and emails delivered to city officials about it with slightly more than half opposed to the project.