COVID stalls major Kelowna waterfront hotel project

Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Westcorp

Westcorp is struggling to find a way to get its stalled Kelowna hotel restarted during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It first proposed a hotel at the foot of Queensway on the old Willow Hotel site in downtown Kelowna at least 15 years ago. The City of Kelowna approved a development permit in February of last year, just as COVID was rearing its ugly head.

That permit expires in February 2022.

“The clock is ticking for us to figure out how to do this,” Gail Temple, Westcorp’s vice-president in charge of the project told “COVID has hit the hotel industry in a really really big way globally and banks are not very happy with that piece of their portfolios. It changes the risk profile.”

In March of last year, Westcorp was about to reveal the world-class name of the company that would operate the hotel but that was cancelled as the first COVID-19 lockdown hit and Temple has spoken only rarely about the project ever since.

READ MORE: Westcorp to announce name, operator of new luxury Kelowna hotel

A show room has been built with the idea of selling the 65 condo units in the 33-storey tower, but the building includes 184 hotel units so banks view it as a hotel project, Temple said.

“Even though our build is four years away banks, if they are going to finance you, are making decisions today with their crystal ball and when their crystal ball is fuzzy it means the interest rates are not going to be great,” she said. “It’s about when does COVID go away enough that international travel becomes common place again.”

If it was a condo project, given the hot real estate market in Kelowna right now, it would be no problem, she said.

She’s been working on the project for the past 14 years, since she first started working for Westcorp, but wasn’t sure how many years before that time the company had been talking about a hotel on that site. It bought the Willow Inn in 2007.

The hotel was originally proposed as a 24-storey tower but the plans were revised a number of times over the years and it grew to 33 storeys.

Westcorp got a development permit in 2018 but the company reapplied in February 2020 in order to make further changes. That means it has until February 2022 to start work or it will have to reapply for a new development permit.

READ MORE: Westcorp’s massive downtown Kelowna hotel gets approved again

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