The man behind Kelowna’s new public pier and marina says he’s excited the facility is finally complete and is looking forward to making it part of a bigger development that he hopes will help transform the downtown area.
Phil Milroy, owner of Westcorp, the Edmonton developer that built the $5.1-million pier for the city, said his plans for a boutique hotel on the site of the former Willow Inn at Mill Street and Queensway are well underway.
He hopes to break ground on that project in the coming months.
“We’re very excited,” said Milroy.
“The Okanagan Valley is a rare and unique piece of geography and I believe the sweet spot is between The Sails (sculpture at the foot of Bernard Avenue) and the entrance to the (new) pier.”
Milroy said he likes what the city is doing to improve Bernard Avenue, as well as the current ongoing plans for the downtown lakeshore, such as a new Kelowna Yacht Club building and expansion of Jim Stuart Park now that the Water Street Seniors Centre is gone.
Westcorp’s proposed hotel, which will include a street level commercial component and an enhanced public space, is expected to also include a multi-storey building and have between 140 and 200 rooms.
Milroy said while it is too early to say exactly how tall the “tower” will be, it is a far cry from the original plan to build three towers in excess of 20 storeys on the land.
That plan, of which Westcorp’s development was part, was known as the CD21, a comprehensive development zone proposed for the entire area around Bernard.
Westcorp provided the seed funding for that zone plan, which called for a massive redevelopment of the area.
But the plan was met with substantial opposition from the public and was ultimately rejected by the previous Kelowna city council.
Westcorp’s original concept also nixed the city’s original plan for Jim Stuart Park, as it was announced just days before the city finalized its first plan for the park.
As a result, the park’s development was delayed.
But with the park now in place, the marina now complete—it is slated to officially open Friday—and a revamped plan for the hotel, Milroy said he is prepared to proceed again.
Describing the new development concept as “vastly” different from the original plan, he said his company has been working closely with the city to make sure what is proposed fits with the Kelowna’s downtown plan.
“We need to be very mindful of what people will think of the (development),” Milroy told the Capital News in an interview Thursday, in part because of the high profile of the location.
“Downtowns are very important areas of any city,” he said.
“We want to do something that will be iconic.”
How exactly the hotel development will look and how it will tie in with the new pier and marina has yet to be revealed.
But Milroy said his company’s desire to build and operate the pier and marina through a contractor is not about making money—it is about improving the area for the hotel development.
Westcorp has contracted out the operation of the marina for the first three years to a group Milroy described as “basically the people at the Hotel Eldorado.”
In return for building, maintaining and operating the pier and marina, Westcorp gets to keep any revenue it makes—mainly through gasoline sales from a new marine gas station and from short-term moorage rentals.
The new hotel is slated to take between 20 and 30 months to build once it gets approval from the city.