An artist rendition of the 24-storey hotel

An artist rendition of the 24-storey hotel

Twenty-four storey hotel planned for Kelowna’s downtown waterfront

Plan for former Willow Inn site includes closing a portion of Mill Street to make a pedestrian corridor through Kerry Park.

The Edmonton-based developer that built, paid for and operates Kelowna’s new public pier and commercial marina, says the hotel it wants to build overlooking Okanagan Lake in the heart of downtown would include a 24-storey tower.

Westcorp, which has made no secret of the fact it has wanted to build a hotel on the site at the foot of Queensway for years, said the proposed $65-million development (see photo of project’s artist rendering) would include the 24-storey, 206-room hotel, an 18,000-square-foot conference centre and 4,000-square-feet of retail space along Water Street.

“This project will revive this area of Kelowna’s waterfront into the vibrant, central hub that it once was during the historic glory days of the original Willow Inn,” said Westcorp president and Kelowna property owner  Phil Milroy in a news release.

“It will connect the community’s waterfront with the downtown core through a pedestrian-only realm that will foster social activities and community interaction.”

In addition to a formal application that has been made to the city, the company also briefed the Downtown Kelowna Association about the project earlier this week.

If approved by the city, construction could start later this year with completion tentatively scheduled for early 2017.

As part of the project, the company also wants the existing stretch of Mill Street that connects Bernard Avenue to Water Street closed and turned it into a pedestrian walkway that would have the existing Kerry Park on one side and the development on the other.

“It will connect the community’s waterfront with the downtown core through a pedestrian-only realm that will foster social activities and community interaction,” said Milroy.

In addition to closing the road to create the pedestrian walkway, Kelowna city council will also be asked to vary the current 19-storey maximum building height allowed for the site.

Westcorp officials locally say they feel their project could influence future development downtown.

“Building on the energy created by the Bernard Avenue revitalization work and the new downtown marina, this hotel will be an exciting and active addition to the heart of the city,” said Gail Temple, Westcorp’s director of development.

“The hotel’s world class, contemporary architectural design will not only help to raise Kelowna’s profile, it will also act as a catalyst, and raise the bar, for future development in the downtown.

The proposal envisions a curved tower designed by international architecture firm Kasian.

“The hotel’s striking elliptical form is set within a podium that steps down to unite with Kerry Park, Bernard Avenue and the waterfront,” said Michael McDonald, the project’s lead architect with Kasian.

“Together, with a material palette that has been drawn from the natural surroundings, we feel it reinforces the identity of the city and contributes to the emerging ‘Kelowna brand.’”

Milroy and his company have wanted to build a new hotel at the foot of Queensway for several years. In 2010 his plans were shot down by the council of the day when it rescinded the proposed CD-21 zone that would have allowed for redevelopment in the area. That proposal included use of part of Kerry Park for the hotel project.

Since then, the area has been rezoned as part of the city’s Downtown Plan.

Milroy also wanted to develop a large public plaza at what is now the south end of Stuart Park before the city was planning development of the park.

In fact, the city’s first plan for Stuart was days away from being announced publicly when it learned of Milroy’s plans and that delayed the city’s first plan for the park.

Last year, when he opened the $5-million public pier that his company paid for, Milroy said he hoped to proceed quickly with a hotel on the now-vacant former Willow Inn site.

Both he and Mayor Walter Gray said at the time the pier and commercial marina would enhance the area, especially for the company’s planned future development.



Kelowna Capital News