Thomson: B.C.’s rich heritage worth supporting

Heritage Week poses a great opportunity to explore and understand the historic significance of some of Kelowna's heritage buildings.

You’ve probably walked through our downtown core enough times to be blinded by the familiarity; nothing really stands out as ‘new’ and in fact, some components of it might be very old.

But as it turns out, that may just be the most special thing about it.

We’re in the midst of Heritage Week, and this year’s theme is ‘Main Street: At the heart of your community.’ It poses a great opportunity to explore and understand the historic significance of some of the heritage buildings at the core of our community.

Every town and city has what it considers to be a “Main Street” that encompasses the history and growth of the community. More and more communities are revitalizing their heritage buildings to encourage business opportunities and increase tourism—and with good reason. Our province’s historic buildings, structures and cultural landscapes attract more than 200,000 global visitors annually, creating local jobs and supporting sustainable communities.

These buildings also link generations of family and community members. A walk through Kelowna’s downtown these days looks very different through the eyes of a child versus his or her parents or grandparents. I encourage you to take a family walk through our downtown core during Heritage Week, and pass along the stories and memories gathered over the years lived in this beautiful city.

That lovely stroll might make you wonder about other historic buildings and downtowns in British Columbia, and there are some fantastic resources to satisfy your curiosity. The Province manages B.C.’s Register of Historic Places, which has more than 3,500 listings of provincial and local government recognized historic places.

You can search the Canadian Register of Historic Places online at www.historicplaces.ca. Click on the ‘The Register’ tab to search by city, and even nominate a historic place you feel should be protected.

A second resource might also be of interest to history buffs. In 2014, the Province of B.C., the Real Estate Foundation of B.C. and the Columbia Institute collaborated on a work book entitled “Dynamic Downtowns Workbook – Using Heritage to Build Strong Vibrant Downtowns.”

It includes a particularly interesting passage on Kelowna’s heritage train station. In 2010 a $1.12 million permissive tax exemption was provided by city council to the developers of 1177 Ellis Street, site of the former CN Rail Train Station. It spurred the development of an underused location in our downtown core, and serves as a good example of a positive return from a permissive tax exemption.

There were jobs created during the redevelopment process, not to mention the jobs that exist today at the commercial ventures situated there. What’s more, this redevelopment will likely have a positive impact on surrounding property values. We’ll also see reduced greenhouse gases in the community thanks to the re-use of an existing building.

So in some ways, what’s old is new again. And as much as we treasure the familiarity of the buildings in our downtown core, we look forward to seeing them put to new uses and creating new memories for Kelowna families. Happy Heritage Week.

Kelowna Capital News

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