Waters: Paying to improve public park a good deal for hotel developer

The builder of a new downtown hotel is basically getting a public park as its front yard thanks to its lakefront location.

Kelowna’s request that the developer planning a major new downtown hotel opposite Kerry Park kick in part of the cost of improving the park is a win-win for all concerned—but especially for Westcorp.

In return for allowing the 214-room hotel to rise to 24 stories, instead of the 19 currently allowed on the site, city planners have asked the company for $350,000 of the estimated $4 million cost to improve the small lakefront park at the foot of Bernard Avenue.

And Westcorp, it appears, has jumped at the offer.

And why not? By doing so it is paying a fraction of the cost of having what, in essence, will be a lush, green park as the front yard of its new hotel.

The money, dubbed a “community amenity contribution,” is called for in a city policy that talks about varying height requirements of buildings downtown—kind of a public quid pro quo.

The city has already agreed to sell part of what is now Mill Street to Westcorp to allow for the hotel development to proceed once the road is closed. The requirement for part of the road right-of-way was described as critical to the project progressing by Westcorp boss Phil Milroy after council approved the deal.

However, a  small portion of Mill Street (in front of Kelly O’Bryan’s Restaurant) will not be sold to Westcorp. It will stay in city hands and become part of the a larger Kerry Parl.

But een there the city has come out a winer.

Westcorp has agreed to pay for improvements to that section of the soon-to-be closed road too. What is envisioned is a pedestrian walkway where the road is now.

With a $65-million development on the table, Westcorp is willing to do all it can to not only get its hotel built, but improve the surrounding area. That’s why it agreed to spend $5.1 million to build the new pier, day-use marina and commercial dock just steps away from its hotel site on lakeshore side of Kerry Park.

But it’s not just the company that is coming out a winner here.

The facelift for Kerry Park will include turning what is now the parking lot beside the park into usable parkland. That will continue the downtown lakeside improvements all the way from the WR Bennett Bridge to the north end of Waterfront Park, with the upcoming opening of the new Kelonwa Yacht CLub building and the planned expansion of Stuart Park.

So it would appear the hotel project is paying off for the city in more than just an economic impact way.

The height variance application for the hotel goes to public hearing Tuesday night at Kelowna city hall.

Alistair Waters is the assistant editor of the Kelonwa Capital News.



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