April 12, 2013 - 12:00 PM
“ECONOMICS BEYOND OUR CONTROL INFLUENCE THESE PROJECTS”
As two mega developments worth nearly $300 million are approved for the Mission, a third major development in the area appears to have stalled. And while residents and businesses in the area of SOPA Square are looking for action, the City of Kelowna is taking a wait and see approach to the problem.
The company responsible for the half-finished concrete building looming over the 3000 block of South Pandosy is mired in debt. According to a March 2013 land title search, P218 Enterprises has added three new mortgages since November 2011. Eight builder's liens were placed on title since November. The liens are filed by various construction, concrete and building supply companies, including Rona Revy, indicating they have not been paid for work or deliveries.
That leaves residents and visitors of South Pandosy staring at the eyesore and wondering about its future. Anita Taylor owns Cranberry Junction directly across from SOPA Square. She thinks the building could make a great addition to the area—if it's completed.
"My hope is they just at least finish the store part, and don't leave that mess across the street,” she says.
Cindy Fuller, a home-owner a couple houses down from SOPA, can see the building crane from her backyard.
“As somebody who lives here, they haven't kept us up to date at all,” she says.
Numerous construction delays have postponed completion of the 11-storey residential-commercial building, which calls for 87 housing units, 20 office and retail units, and an underground parkade. A sign posted on the fenced perimeter of the building reads: “Live here Spring 2013,” but the raw construction site behind it looks far from hospitable.
The question is what the city does about it, if anything. With two more large-scale mixed-use developments recently approved at the Hiawatha site and Manteo Resort, SOPA Square raises questions about financial oversight. A company can't always do what it proposes.
City planner Paul McVey says the city can only manage the development permit for these projects. The rest is up to market forces.
“As long as they keep their inspections up to date, the permit is up and running,” he says. “Economics beyond our control influence these projects.”
This isn't the first time grandiose building plans became blights on the community. Construction on the Lucaya development near Prospera Place sat idle for four years, attracting vandalism and pests. In that case, the City did step up to declare it a nuisance property so it could secure the property and remove the crane. It has since been sold. The Conservatory on Glenmore Road sat in various stages of completion for more than 10 years while finances and market forces sorted it out.
Coun. Andre Blanleil says developments like this have a natural life cycle.
“At the end of the day, someone else will pick it up and get it finished,” he says.
McVey says management of the SOPA project has changed but didn't provide specifics. Numerous attempts to contact Sopa Square have been ignored.
Foundational work for SOPA started in 2010, when city council approved zoning for the development. Later in 2011, the developer was granted a temporary permit to use three adjacent properties for staging the construction work. The temporary industrial-use permit can be extended for another three years if necessary.
While McVey says he doesn't know where the SOPA building is headed, he hopes to see it rise to its full 11 storeys.
“We certainly want to see it succeed,” he says.
To contact the reporter for this story, email Julie Whittet at email@example.com or call (250)718-0428.
(JULIE WHITTET /InfoTel Multimedia)
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013