KELOWNA - Reports that construction is beginning on the 24-storey Westcorp hotel on Kelowna’s waterfront are erroneous, says a company representative.
“What’s going on is we are installing two test piles that, for lack of a better word, will be drilled into the ground,” company vice president Gail Temple says. “We’re testing to make sure this is going to work. We’re also testing soil conditions close to where the core of the building is going to be.”
Temple says information gleaned from the test piles will be used to design the building’s piling program.
“It will be early 2016 before we actually start by demolishing the building on site.”
She says the company was surprised by the recent level of interest in the project.
“Maybe we should have thought there would be all this speculation once people see fencing going up. We will do a proper ground breaking ceremony when the time comes.”
Calgary-based Westcorp has owned the property where the Willow Inn once stood on Queensway Avenue since 2003. Construction almost went ahead in 2010 when company owner Phil Milroy, hoping for a quick resolution, picked up the tab for the planning of the CD-21 zone, a comprehensive development plan by the City of Kelowna for a big chunk of the downtown core.
“The irony of it all is that it wasn’t quick at all,” Temple adds.
When that plan was shot down by council, the company went back to the drawing board for the plan that has emerged today for a boutique hotel on the shores of Okanagan Lake.
Also off-base is the cost of the project, reported in the media as $65 million, Temple says.
“That’s a number put out by the economic impact people and it’s quite low. We will have a better idea of that number once we get into it. When we go for a building permit, we have to tell the city exactly what we think it will cost.”
Temple also dismissed concerns by local businesses of the effect of vibrations during the piling program on their buildings.
“We are not pile driving. They have always been fearful of vibrations and pile driving but with this new process, there will be no vibration. We want to have the least impact on our neighbours as possible.”
Westcorp will manage the property itself once complete, she adds.
“Westcorp doesn’t do flags. That’s where you let a Westin or a Sheraton run your property. We don’t do that.”
She could not confirm the number of rooms the hotel will have at this point.
“We’re doing five floors of extended stay units. Those particular floors have not come to a conclusion on how many rooms there will be.”
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