Redevelopment of Capri Centre site gets enthusiastic response from Kelowna council

Council likes a plan to build residential towers, commercial and retail and a public park on the site of hotel and shopping centre.

Kelowna city council likes what the owners of the Capri Centre mall are selling.

Council was presented with a plan to redevelop the Capri Centre site Monday afternoon and unanimously approved sending a zoning change to allow the project to a public hearing.

“I’ve wanted to se something like this for the Capri Centre for a long time,” said Coun. Robert Hobson, adding he has long believed that the site was “under utilized.”

“I think it’s a great model.”

The plan, which centres a around a small public park with an open air skating rink in the middle of the site and an adjacent public plaza, would see a mix of residential building ranging from six stories to a 26-storey tower, as well as commercial and retail space.

Centre owner RG Properties plan, envisions as many as 2,200 housing units.

While the development would be covered by a comprehensive development zone, the current commercial zoning would have to be changed as it only allows a maximum height of 12 stories.

Despite that, city planning staff said the redevelopment fits with the the city’s vision for the site and the department supports the plan.

In exchange for the public amenities on the site, including the park, rink, plaza and pedestrian accesses through the property to the park, the city is being asked to allow the taller buildings. They would be oriented towards the centre of the property with shorter buildings on the outside, especially where the site borders other residential areas.

BUt while the council members all supported the plan and some gave it rave reviews, a not of caution was raised by three councillors, Gail Given,Luke tack and Maxine DeHart.

Given questioned whether the local motoring public would use underground partking as that is where the majority of the parking for the new development would be located.

Drivers use it in other, larger cities but not here,” she said.

Also on the issue of parking, DeHart questioned whether there would be enough given the large estimated number required for people living on the site, the existing Capri Hotel and for those working there and visiting.

Planner Ryan Smith said the site is fully integrated with local transit — there is a RapidBus stop at the location — and the attempt will be to make the site more “people friendly than car friendly.”

Stack said he felt the the public amenities the city would receive were “a little light,” but nonetheless liked what he saw.

As for the park, he called it small and said its location could lead some to think it was only for those living on the site.

DeHart stressed the need for the continued maintenance of the public amenities after Stack said he has seen examples of similar projects elsewhere where the amenities are the first to be neglected in tough economic times.

But despite his concerns he said he liked the plan and even compared it to the much larger Metrotown shopping centre in Burnaby. Here, he said, there’s site here also builds on being in a strong residential core, has a major commercial component and is serviced by public transit. Metrotown is a popular stop for Skytrain in the Lower Mainland.

The plan also allows for the Capri Hotel to remain on the site. The hotel, currently the second largest in the city, has 250 rooms.

In addition to the extra height of the proposed buildings, the site would also see a much higher level of density. Hobson noted that the trade off appears to be the public amenities for the allowance of taller buildings and and more density.

The redevelopment proposal will go to a special public hearing to be held on Wednesday, Oct. 22.

That week, because of a heavy public hearing schedule, public hearings will be held on the traditional Tuesday night, as well as Wednesday.