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New food-focused plan for Kelowna's Innovation Centre rooftop wins council's approval

Developers have dropped a plan to try and get a liquor-primary licence for the tenant-only rooftop facility.
The planned rooftop eatery on top of the Innovation Centre in Kelowna is already taking shape.

Developers of the new Innovation Centre in Kelowna have dropped their plans for a liquor-focused facility on the roof the building, and instead now say they are looking at a food-focused indoor-outdoor space to be used exclusively by building tenants and their invited guests.

And Kelowna city council say that's just fine.

But some on council are concerned over what city planner Ryan Smith described as an apparent miscommunication between the developers of the building and city staff that lead to construction on the roof of the yet-to-be completed building at Doyle Avenue and Ellis Street for the addition, without a permit.

"There wasn't clear communication on both fronts which probably lead to the confusion," Smith told council.

He put it down to "different communication styles" and the developers understanding of the process.

"I know they feel bad," he said.

The addition of the 500-square feet indoor-outdoor space on the roof, which will have a maximum capacity of 298 people but which will rarely see that many according to project spokesman Jeff Keen, has been contentious.

Opposition from residents of the nearby Madison residential tower, which overlooks the six-storey building, sparked complaints to the city when the original liquor-primary plan surfaced.

A liquor primary licence would have allowed for what could have been, but was never intended to be, a nightclub on the centre's roof.

Earlier this month, council made it clear it would not support a liquor-primary licence application to the province and the situation was further muddied when representatives of the developer appeared before council unable to say what the ultimate plans were for the rooftop space.

Keen told council the intention now is to provide a catered eating area for use exclusively by tenants of the innovation centre. The hours of operation will be between  8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday,he said. Seating will be limited in the outside area.

Coun. Gail Given encouraged the centre's developers to talk with Madison residents and control the noise from the rooftop as the building, in the heart of downtown Kelowna, could also be considered to be in a residential area because of the nearby condominium buildings.

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran said he was happy to see the new plan, noting one of the only events he could think of that may attract more than the 60 to 70 people Keen expects will use the rooftop facility at any given time, would the annual Metabridge technology conference the city hosts.It attracts high-tech officials from across North America.

But while a majority of council liked the new plan, there was one holdout.

Coun. Luke Stack was the sole voice against it.

He said he feared the hours will eventually be lengthened, there will be noise and, someday, when the building's owners allow the public to use the rooftop facility, there could be more complaints to the city from nearby residents of other buildings.

"This amendment significantly alters the original intent of the building," said Stack, adding he felt it "commercializes" the rooftop.

He added his view is born out be the fact the developers will have to rewrite lease with the city for the land the building sits on as a result.