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Residents scramble for places to live as downtown Kelowna building deemed unsafe

Hadgraft Wilson Place is visible on the right side of the photo next to UBCO's downtown construction site.
Hadgraft Wilson Place is visible on the right side of the photo next to UBCO's downtown construction site.

A subsidized housing building next to UBC Okanagan’s downtown construction site is being evacuated, but the university has yet to take any responsibility.

Hadgraft Wilson Place is a building geared towards people with limited income or disabilities which is owned and operated by Pathways Ability Society.

“The tenants are absolutely devastated, as are we. We’re beyond frustrated. This simply shouldn’t be happening and was preventable. We have been notifying UBC Trust for months about the issues, looking for solutions to the initial damage and wanting to ensure the long-term stability of the building. Their message has been they are not confident the construction is causing the building damage,” Pathways’ Executive Director Charisse Daley said in a press release.

The Hadgraft Wilson Place was completed just last year.

“These are people who are more than tenants and have formed supporting caring relationships. For some, they finally have a place to call home. Eight months later, being evacuated is just unimaginable. We’re playing triage to address the immediate short-term problem while working on the longer-term solutions,” Daley said. 

The building is located right next to the site where UBCO excavated a four-storey deep hole for a parking garage for the 43-storey tower it plans to build there.

The excavation has damaged three other adjacent buildings to the point of evacuation: The Royal Canadian Legion, McWilliams Centre and an office building across Doyle Avenue.

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

Tenants in Hadgraft Wilson Place found out they would have until 6 p.m. tomorrow to vacate their homes.

The City of Kelowna made an announcement shortly after tenants heard the news.

“A review of third-party geotechnical and structural engineering reports for the construction on the UBCO downtown site has raised safety concerns for the building,” the city said in a media release.

James Thompson’s father lives in Hadgraft Wilson Place and he attended the meeting where representatives from the fire department, UBCO and Mayor Tom Dyas told residents the news.

UBC Okanagan’s Principal and Deputy Vice-Chancellor Lesley Cormack was the university’s representative at the meeting.

“The whole situation is shocking. UBC had their representative there and she apologized for the situation, after she apologized one of the tenants said, ‘if you’re apologizing for the situation are you taking responsibility for it’ and she did not comment, she said she could not speak to that,” Thompson said.

The construction company hired by UBCO, Ledcore, did not have a representative at the meeting. One Ledcore employee on the downtown construction site declined to comment, and the company’s main office was unable to give an immediate comment.

The City of Kelowna’s communications department was unable to immediately comment.

Thompson said the mayor told tenants the city would do what it could to remedy the situation.

“The mayor said he empathized with us and was going to do everything he could to help the situation. Whether it was honesty or just lip service I don’t know, maybe a bit of both,” Thompson said.

UBCO spokesperson Nathan Skolski said the university will provide information as it becomes available, but did not respond when asked whether the school will take responsibility for the damage to the building.

“Given the complex nature of this project, UBC and UBC Properties Trust will take time to study the most recent engineering reports and consult with the city to establish the appropriate next steps. We will share that information as it becomes available. UBC and UBC Properties Trust are committed to working closely with the city, the Pathways Abilities Society and BC Housing. We are in regular communication with all parties and will provide information and expertise throughout this period,” Skolski said.

Residents of Hadgraft Wilson Place will be temporarily put in hotels around Kelowna, at least until the end of this week. Residents are also receiving $50 per day for food while they are evacuated.

Thompson said he’s surprised there wasn’t more of a plan in place.

“With the other buildings around being put out of commission why wasn’t there any planning, or more communication. The fire department said they had to wait and do all the testing before making any announcement or plan. Which is a very bureaucratic way of saying nobody wanted to make a decision before they had to, and the residents are paying the price for that,” he said.

Thompson was not surprised by the news, damage to the surrounding buildings and his father’s have been apparent for months.

In the corner of the building closest to the excavation site there is visible cracking, and an electrical box sinking into the ground. One anonymous resident said the damage visible on this corner of the building has been getting worse for months, but has been continuously patched.

The sinking electrical box next to the UBCO construction site.
The sinking electrical box next to the UBCO construction site.

“Everybody can see and everybody knows why this is happening to this building and all the others, but UBC is not directly saying ‘yes it is our fault.’ If UBC were to own up to it then they would take accountability for the consequences, and the consequences with my dad’s building are displacing around 80 vulnerable people,” he said.

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

“After the meeting my dad said this is really depressing, and it is. He had some health trouble recently... and since moving into this building his health has done a 180.. and now this,” Thompson said.

Hadgraft Wilson Place was built in partnership with BC Housing which released a statement regarding the situation.

“The most recent structural and geotechnical engineering reports indicate the adjacent shoring wall that is part of UBC Okanagan’s construction site is unstable. If this wall were to slip it could cause serious structural damage to Hadgraft Wilson Place. This new information about the risks of the wall come after earlier reports that showed UBC Okanagan’s construction activity had caused cracks in the walls and windows of Hadgraft Wilson Place,” BC Housing said.

Thompson said he believes Pathways is doing everything it can to help the tenants.

Pathways has asked for the public’s help to find accommodations for these tenants to rent in the short term, if anyone has a space to rent they can email

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