Controversial downtown Kelowna highrise looking to cast widest shadow in town

This is an earlier sketch of the proposed development at 350 Doyle Avenue in Kelowna.
This is an earlier sketch of the proposed development at 350 Doyle Avenue in Kelowna.
Image Credit: Submitted/City of Kelowna

A 13-storey tower proposed to tie the former Kelowna RCMP detachment lands downtown to the cultural district is looking to fill the most space of any building of similar height in the city.

But, it will also be one of the few with underground parking, making the main floor more pedestrian friendly.

RISE Commercial Development has now submitted a rezoning application for the project to city council.

The local company was chosen a year ago to proceed with plans for a highrise on part of the former RCMP property. The rest will be used to rebuild Kelowna Community Theatre.

The project sparked strong public opposition when it was first announced in the fall of 2019 but the city ignored those concerns and pushed ahead with awarding an 80-year lease to RISE earlier this year.

READ MORE: Legacy group 'shocked' over council reactions to proposal

In exchange, the city will get $7 million, $4.3 million of which will extend the Artwalk, build a civic plaza with amphitheatre and provide 6,000 square feet of public space, known as an Arts Hub, inside the building.

By taking the unusual step of putting parking underground, that will open up the main floor for more public use, states a report on the “development design rationale” accompanying the rezoning application.

“Underground parking is uncommon in Kelowna as the water table is very high and results in expensive difficult underground construction,” the report says. “The result is that many proposed developments require a large above-grade parking podium on the developments. This can result in large, inactive masses above, limiting active urban engagement with the surrounding built form.

“We understand that this is a very special site and the active engagement at the podium level is a critical part of creating a great pedestrian urban experience. In that spirit, we are proposing to locate the vehicular parking in three levels of underground parking. This allows the podium to be freed up for more active programming (commercial, retail and office) resulting in a more pedestrian scaled podium to enhance the street experience.”

The plan calls for three variances. One is to allow for the 13-storey height but two are designed to allow for a bigger building, something the city is proposing to prevent in other projects.

Last month, the city proposed changes to its highrise building zones that currently high-rises to spread over 1,220 square metres on each floor.

That’s OK for lower buildings but should not be allowed for highrises, city staff said.

The proposal is to limit buildings that are more than 12 storeys tall to 750 square metres. The only highrise in Kelowna that is currently bigger than that is One Water Street at 770 square metres.

READ MORE: City planners want to keep fat highrises out of Kelowna

The 350 Doyle Avenue proposal is for 1,753 square metres for floors seven to 12 with the 13th slightly smaller.

“The maximum floor plate size bylaw requirements are intended for taller ‘point-tower’ designs,” the RISE report to council states. “As our proposed design is a mid-rise design building, a larger floor-plate size is required.”

The first two, street-level storeys are “being designed with a traditional Kelowna aesthetic" that will include weathered red brick masonry with traditional masonry detailing and accents,” the report says.

The top 10 residential storeys “will have a more modern aesthetic,” the report says. No drawings were provided in the application to show what the building might look like.

The application will have to go to a public hearing.

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