Letter: Downtown business against Westcorp hotel

The owner of Mosaic Books says hotel goes against downtown vision

To the editor:

A thick structure towering 33 storeys at the foot of Bernard Avenue is simply overwhelming. This zone was intentionally to be left as low rise to embrace the experience of open space in a charming and vibrant district of restaurants, shops and nature.

As a retail business owner nearby I’d like to confirm that ever since the revitalization of Bernard was completed our business has grown exceptionally every year. We appreciate and welcome all of the new and soon-to-be-built high-rises in and around the perimeter of the downtown core that past councils and staff recommended. When the decision was made a few years ago to not proceed with a cluster of waterfront high-rises around Bernard Ave. (then known as CD-21), a compromise was accepted whereby a single hotel-only structure (less than half the size of the current proposal) could compliment and benefit the overall downtown.

We thought that would have happened by now, and with this location earmarked and expected for such, it’s no surprise that, despite the demand, no other contenders have made hotel proposals elsewhere downtown. Unfortunately, it’s becoming more clear every year that the ever-promised hotel is just being used as a means to eventually build a very exclusive and profitable condominium complex that would otherwise have been flat out denied. We are now told that the hotel component still might not proceed unless enough condos within the complex are pre-sold. What if this does not materialize to the satisfaction of the developer? Will council finally put an end to this game so that the landowner might sell to someone who actually knows how to make a properly scaled hotel work?

Despite the city’s own professionals concluding that the latest revised proposal was simply too big, four councilors and the mayor ignored their advice and the concept we had encouraged. From this it’s pretty obvious that some still prefer high-rises everywhere in this area. If this massive structure is built it will make everything in the area look silly and out of proportion. Mayor and council, can you not recognize that if Kelowna’s popularity is to be embraced and developed to its best potential that the structure you just approved is completely wrong?

Michael Neill, Kelowna

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