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UPDATE: Residents across from the big hole UBCO dug in downtown Kelowna have to evacuate their building

Excavation for the UBCO tower is complete.
Excavation for the UBCO tower is complete.

There was a meeting today for residents of an apartment building across from the site of the new UBC Okanagan tower, where residents heard the news that they will have to vacate their homes.

The City of Kelowna put out a press release to officially state the residents of Hadgraft Wilson Place will have to evacuate because of the UBCO construction site.

Residents will have three days to vacate their homes.

“Recent assessments have indicated the level of risk is significant enough to begin the evacuation process to ensure the life and safety of occupants,” Fire Chief Dwight Seymour said in the release. “Additionally, due to the shifting in the building, safety features may be compromised in the event of an emergency, creating an additional risk to occupants and first responders.” 

“We are dedicated to ensuring our tenants receive the support they need during this difficult time,” Executive Director of Pathways Abilities Society Charisse Daley said in the release. “Pathways will work with each tenant to understand their needs and connect them with resources and accommodations as necessary.”

UBCO has suspended construction on the downtown site until further notice.

UBCO finished digging a four-storey deep hole for a parkade for its 43-storey vertical campus which has caused extensive damage to the surrounding buildings.

The Royal Canadian Legion, McWilliams Centre and an office building across Doyle Avenue have been vacated because of structural damage caused by the excavation, and now Hadgraft Wilson Place.

James Thompson’s elderly father lives in the Hadgraft Wilson Place, a new apartment building next to the UBCO construction site, and he anticipated his father would have to leave. spoke with Thompson prior to today’s meeting where the city informed tenants they have to vacate the building.

“My dad said there’s tons of people in the basement in the underground parking lot looking at the spider cracking in the foundation. In his unit he can’t close his patio door because the jamb is so out of square. There are big cracks in the drywall,” Thompson said. “He lives on the fifth floor, so it’s going all the way up.”

The six-storey Hadgraft Wilson Place is housing geared towards people with limited income or disabilities. Pathways, the owner of the building, held a meeting on Thursday to update tenants on the status of the damage to the building.

“They sort of explained the situation, but they didn’t give that much of an actual explanation, or say who’s causing it, or what’s happening, or why it’s happening,” Thompson said.

Earlier this month UBCO told that the settling issue causing damage to the surrounding buildings was no longer a concern for the Hadgraft Wilson Place.

“Engineering memos continue to note that the Pathways (Hadgraft Wilson Place) building has no structural concerns and remains safe to occupy,” Nathan Skolski, associate director of public affairs for UBCO, said in an email to

READ MORE: Worst should be over for neighbours of big hole UBCO dug in downtown Kelowna

Tenants in the building are seeing the same type of damage that caused the three neighbouring buildings to evacuate, to Thompson the cause was obvious before they city made its announcement.

“I’m absolutely shocked. I’m in the construction industry. I have been for about 20 years. But you don’t need to have experience in construction to look at the situation and see what is happening and why all these buildings are having settling issues. There’s a 60 foot hole 40 feet away from the building. It’s a no brainer,” he said.

“This is a perfectly structurally sound, brand new building, and all of a sudden there are all of these issues with it. The same issues as these three adjacent buildings that had issues with the 60 foot hole right next to them,” he said.

Thompson was not sure what would be said in the meeting, but he wasn’t hopeful.

“The fire department is going to be there, apparently the mayor is going to be there, and apparently a representative from UBCO, to have a meeting with the tenants. I think it's to tell them they will have to evacuate the building because it's not safe to live in anymore,” he said.

Prior to the meeting Thompson said if the building is evacuated because of the UBCO construction site then the city ought to hold UBCO and the construction company overseeing the excavation, Ledcore, accountable.

“There’s lots of people who might not have the family support that my dad has. There’s lots of people with developmental disabilities who are on an even more fixed income than my father. It’s a really vulnerable population that is having a really shitty thing done to them,” he said. 

“It has a real David and Goliath feeling. There’s two multi-million dollar companies who have the means to do something to make it right and so far we have heard zero from them,” he said.

READ MORE: Workers in downtown Kelowna building forced out as UBCO digs deeper

Thompson said he understands the need to wait for testing to be done before officially announcing the damage was caused by UBCO. 

"I understand why UBC doesn’t want to own up to it, it’s a very expensive mistake. They want to have a whole bunch of tests done by engineers and experts to say definitively what is happening and why it’s happening," he said. 

The situation has caused hardship for Thompson and his family.

“It’s incredibly stressful,” he said. “We went through some stress when we realized the house my dad was in wasn’t going to work for him and we had to find somewhere affordable. Out of the heavens Pathways came through with this building and we managed to get him in there which was a fantastic, brand new building in an area he already knows, and now this.”

“It’s so apparent what has caused all this damage to all these buildings and now my dad’s building as well. I’m just so shocked that Ledcore and UBCO…haven't stepped up to do more to put these vulnerable residents' minds at ease,” he said.

- With files from Rob Munro.

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