Michaels: Okanagan developments taking a realistic twist

Whether it was highrises or planned communities, a lot of the dreams of 2008 went the way of the dodo.

“Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge, has marked the upward surge of mankind and greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the U.S.”

For those who use their minds for something more important than committing movie quotes to memory, those are the worlds of Gordon Gecko— Michael Douglas’s character in the movie Wall Street.

The character is often referenced when discussing unrestrained greed and all the problems it has caused. In particular, Gordon Gecko’s name came up an awful lot during the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.

But it’s not just bankers and Wall Street types who were overtaken by greed in those years.

Even in this corner of the world, it became pretty noticeable. In the years leading up to the financial crisis, Kelowna’s housing market had what looked like a renaissance of grandiosity.

Houses and condominiums were bigger than ever.

The neighbourhoods they were planted in had a shimmer and shine at odds with the average middle class resident’s paycheque.  Some planned neighbourhoods boasted golf courses and others promised marinas. There was even a waterfall and a tropical garden in the works for one particularly beleaguered development.

Once the doors to those homes swung open, what was inside seemed more befitting to something you’d see in a  reality TV show—where the stars are botoxed, ballooned and bleached—not what the middle class would be able to maintain.

It was odd. Unsettling, even.

Maybe because it was doomed?

Whether it was highrises or planned communities, a lot of the dreams of 2008 went the way of the dodo.

Now they’re taking flight again in a way that’s a lot more appropriate for both the landscape and the community.

Let’s start with Glenmore’s Conservatory. It was a bit of a canary in the coal mine, in that it went down fast and hard—and yes, I’m going to stick with these bird cliches. What was once going to be a haven for rich condo dwellers who liked tropical gardens, now looks like the type of place people could have a family in. Renters are already making the case for that and plans to build high density housing and amenities around it have made what was once a cautionary tale in development something much more cozy.

In the Pandosy area, there’s SOPA Square. It’s where I dreamed I’d one day live, but knew I could never afford. Turned out I wasn’t alone. It faced a number of problems, but when a new developer took it over, downscaled plans and made it a bit more accessible, units sold like hotcakes.

This week there’s Kirshner Mountain doing its own adaptation. Kelowna city council this week approved a bid by the owners—who are selling the property and the project—to amend the city’s Official Community Plan to allow the total build-out to be as many as 771 units, up from the previous limit of 600 units.

The change is for the sake of increasing density, which means more townhomes than behemoth houses. AKA—more families in homes.

It’s not just in Kelowna where this adaptation is happening. Over in Lake Country there was a similar phenomenon.

In 2008 the Lakestone development was a master planned community much like Quail Ridge or Predator Ridge—it planned for big multi-family homes on a golf course and marina.

When the initial developer let the project go, it was purchased by McDonald Development in Vancouver, which saw an increasing need for spaces families could inhabit. The plan shifted to more single family homes that were affordable. The marina and golf course ideas were turfed in favour of more fitness and walking trails.

There will still be waterfront access, although it’s going to focus on kayak and paddle board users. Not only is that better for the pocketbook, the lake is likely heaving a sigh of relief.

Basically, greed was pretty good for awhile, but it’s so much better to see more practical developments take their place across the valley.

These are the type of developments that let working people live in this community. Granted, they’re still going to have to be fairly high earning working people, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Kathy Michaels is a Black Press reporter working for the Kelowna Capital News.


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