"YOU WON'T FIND SIX ACRES IN DOWNTOWN KELOWNA EVER AGAIN."
It may not be long before the ambitious, long-awaited plan for the Central Green project is launched into action.
Last April the city put four of the sites on the subdivided property up for sale and prospective buyers have until June 21 to put in their proposals.
Despite the price of the six-acre lot, Land Development Manager Derek Edstrom says the site hasn't had any trouble attracting prospective buyers.
“It has peaked the interest of a lot of developers, we're anticipating multiple people coming forward by the deadline," he says. "It's a very unique site, it's got connectivity to both the highway as well as the downtown corridor.... You won't find six acres in downtown Kelowna ever again."
The site will bridge with downtown physically through a pedestrian overpass, as well as conceptually. High visibility along Highway 97 means it will shape visitors' first impressions of Kelowna.
Six years ago the City set in motion a lengthy public consultation process to build a large urban centre shaped around a five-acre green space taking up 40 per cent of the property. Formerly the site of Kelowna Senior Secondary, city planners decided it should become a vibrant community with sustainably-built commercial-residential towers along Harvey Avenue and multiple family, affordable and rental housing at its core. A central plaza and public park space was envisioned to foster a social atmosphere.
Once a developer comes forward with a plan by the end of June, city councillors will be able to give the project the final go-ahead in July or early August.
Public input and feedback from local residents helped city planners nail down a vision for an organically-shaped community, free of roadways. Members of the public were invited to sketch out their own designs for the park space.
While the exact number of towers and units will be up to the developer, Edstrom says they must adhere to the vision of a pedestrian-based community and prove they have the financial ablity to make that happen.
"There is flexibility in form and structure, but at least every building on the site has to meet a LEED certified standard," Edstrom says.
The large heritage tree currently shading the temporary off-leash dog park is there to stay, says Edstrom.
"I've had tree experts look at it, in fact this whole plaza is marked to save that tree," he says. The dog park will also stay, but in a different configuration and will be renamed Rowcliffe Park.
Councillor Robert Hobson recently suggested the possibility of kick-starting the public park. But until money comes in from the developer, the park will have to wait, Edstrom says.
"You don't want to invest too much money in the park when you might have to come back and re-do it because of construction, the idea is to do it in conjunction so it happens at the same time," he says.
While the land has been sitting idle for many years, Edstrom says the timeline has been steady and ground installations of the necessary pipes and electrical infrastructure has been completed. Construction on the buildings themselves will also happen in multiple phases over a number of years.
"It is a vacant site in the downtown but just realize there's such a huge process to bring these projects forward and to get what the community's desire is," he says.
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