Michaels: Future Kelowna is casting long shadows

"When I walk down Doyle Avenue, past Ellis Street, my brow furrows and my mind is immediately overwhelmed with one word: Ugh..."

It’s probably best not to judge buildings before they’ve been completed. But, as a naturally judgmental person, I can’t help but do just that.

When I walk down Doyle Avenue, past Ellis Street, my brow furrows and my mind is immediately overwhelmed with one word: Ugh.

Ugh, in this case, is a stand-in for the following questions: Why is it suddenly so gloomy in what used to be a cheerful and bright corner?

Why has the aesthetically pleasing library been obscured by what looks to be a squat, square blah-ding?

Why is the Interior Health building so close to the sidewalk?

Was this corner always supposed to shape up into the 1970s version of progress?

I’m hoping that my pre-completion perspective will be changed as time wears on, windows are popped in and cranes roll away because the last thing I want to become is one of the anti-development crew.

Firstly, because I know Kelowna needs to be densified.

The downtown requires a concentration of people, working and spending money, so supporting existing and future businesses can really flourish.

Secondly, I’ve seen what having nagging development doubts can do to someone in their dotage, and I really don’t want to devolve into one of those people who compulsively heckles city planners as soon as they mention concrete.

I really love concrete. Especially when it’s the foundation of a good city.

A good city-scape makes my heart go pitter pat, as a matter of fact.

But these buildings, on their own thus far, aren’t getting my pulse racing and I’m not alone. I’ve spoken to a number of people who’ve expressed similar displeasure in the darkening of Doyle.

Darkening that really needs to be offset as further development comes into place because, thus far, it’s out of step with the natural attributes that makes this city appealing.

Coming to terms with how it all fits together, I suppose, is what’s to happen with the development of a “civic plaza” which has been talked about a great deal this week.

The long-range plan encompasses a new performing arts centre, a consolidation of existing museums and extension of the Art Walk from Queensway to Cawston Avenue.

“These public space improvements are an important ingredient for the civic precinct to function as a cohesive and vibrant district within downtown,” reads part of a report to council by planner Ross Soward.

“The civic precinct plan embraces the vision of a dynamic community that aspires to have people live, work, play and learn in this area.”

Anticipating the future look of the area bounded by Queensway, Clement Avenue, Ellis Street and Water Street, among other things the plan says the current RCMP building, which will soon be empty when the police move to new Clement Avenue digs, will become a higher density residential property.

“The site will be a catalyst to enhance and accelerate public space improvements such as the Art Walk extension and civic plaza (to eventually be developed between the courthouse, library and community theatre),” Soward said.

It all sounds wonderful, but what I hope we all remember as we zoom toward future Kelowna, is that this space may be coming available for economic and cultural enhancement, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of our natural attributes.

Kelowna has one of the most fetching waterfronts I’ve ever seen and it would be nice to see developers be mindful of that, not just maximizing their square footage, as they create our future city scape.

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