A proposed 210-room hotel, that its proponents and members of city council predict will become an “icon” in Kelowna’s downtown, easily crossed its second to last major hurdle Tuesday night.
At a public hearing to amend the city’s Official Community Plan and change the zoning of Mill Street, which runs between the site of the future hotel and Kerry Park and which will be closed and sold to the hotel’s developer, saw only two members of the public speak out Tuesday night. And they were in favour of the project.
The city said it received 65 letters of support for the project and just four against it.
When it came council’s turn to speak, every member present —Councillors Robert Hobson and Maxine DeHart were absent— lavished praise on the project and the company behind it, Edmonton-based Westcorp.
“This is a spectacular design,” said Coun. Luke Stack. “I know it will be a landmark building.”
Stack was also taken—as were his colleagues—with the company’s public comunications plan for the project, saying it set a new benchmark for developments to follow in the city.
Mayor Walter Gray, who said Werstcorp owner Phil Milroy had been “misunderstood” in the past when he proposed developing the former Willow Inn site at the corner of Queensway and Mill Street, and “not treated well in the past,” (by previous councils) deserved a lot of credit for sticking with is desire to see a hotel built on the site.
“This really sets the bar for developments in the future,” said Gray.
The a 24-storey elliptical hotel tower, to sit on a four-storey base, required a height variance because the maximum height allowance for building in the area is 19 storeys. The rezoning of what is currently Mill Street also had to be passed. And they were both unanimously approved by council.
Following the meeting, Milroy called council’s decisions “really exciting,” adding the last major hurdle will be getting a development permit for the project, a move that will require another public hearing.
But that is expected to go just as smoothly as Tuesday evening’s public hearing.
The hotel, which will front onto Kerry Park, will turn Mill Street into a pedestrain walkway separating the hotel from the park.
The project is not using any park land.
Councillors predicted the Westcorp hotel, which wil include restaurants, a small conference centre and retails stores on the Water Street side, will help revitalize downtown Kelowna, giving it an anchor at the south end.
Milroy said working drawings for the project still have to be completed and that will take time. He said he would like to see construction start next year and be complete by early 2017.