Accusing developers of Kelowna’s new Okanagan Centre for Innovation of “putting the cart before the horse,” and not providing enough information about what exactly it plans to do with the space, city council, at the last minute, deferred a decision on a controversial rooftop restaurant and patio for the building.
When it became clear that a motion to approve expanding the space allowed for use on the roof of the six-story building under construction at Doyle Avenue and Ellis Street downtown would be rejected, council passed the deferral motion to avoid the embarrassment of forcing the developer to tear down what has already been build on the roof of the Innovation Centre.
“We’ll defer this to get a more concrete plan as to what the structure will be used for,” said Mayor Colin Basran.
During questioning of representatives of both the building’s architect, local firm Meiklejohn Architects Inc. and the Kelowna Sustainable Innovation Group, the organization building the Innovation Centre, several councillors made it clear they were unhappy with the lack of information being provided as to future plans for the rooftop space.
Coun. Like Stack said a report to council made it clear in at least three different places that the aim was to get a liquor primary licence for the rooftop space. And that did not sit well with residents of the Madison residential building across the street or several councillors.
During a lengthy discussion about private verses public space in the new building—which is built on land leased to KSIG by the city and includes a $6 million investment from the province—several councillors said they could not support the request to add 500-square feet of usable space on the rooftop for a privately run restaurant and patio—not without knowing what the final plan was for the space or knowing what it would look like.
Kelsey Helm, speaking for the KSIG, told council he was unprepared for such questions.
Asked after the meeting about that, he declined to comment.
The 106,000-square-foot building, billed as a showcase structure that will house tech companies, start-ups, non-profit groups and innovation companies, is already well behind the original building schedule.
When ground was broken on the project in October 2014, KSIG said it expected the Innovation Centre would be open and operating by the summer of 2016. But after a lengthy delay in getting its information together to apply for city permits and waiting to get the province on board, the completion date was pushed back to late 2017.
As part of its deal with the city, a theatre inside the building was to be provided for public use, said mayor Colin Basran, who was part of the previous city council that made the deal with the KSIG.
Several councillors, including Stack, Ryan Donn, Charlie Hodge, Maxine DeHart, Tracey Gray and Gail Given all expressed concerns about the apparent loss of what was believed would be “public amenity space,” in the building with the inclusion of the privately run restaurant and patio on the roof.
Coun. Mohini Singh said she felt the plan was to create an outdoor pub on the roof of the building, something not envisioned when initial plans were approved, she said.
Gray summed up the issue for council by saying she felt the developer should have got the proper zoning for the what it wants to build on the roof before coming to council to have the development permit approved.
While council looked at the issue of the development permit Monday, it noted any application for a liquor primary licence would have to come back to council and would require a public hearing at that time.