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Work on UBCO highrise resumes in downtown Kelowna as evacuated residents face unsure future

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.

Residents evacuated from a supportive housing complex next door to a massive UBC Okanagan construction project building a highrise tower in downtown Kelowna feel like they've been left in the dark as work resumes.

UBCO’s excavation for its four-storey underground parking garage caused significant damage to surrounding buildings. Hadgraft Wilson Place, which was built for residents with fixed incomes and disabilities, is one of those buildings. Its approximately 90 tenants were told on March 31 they would have to leave their homes and had until April 2 to move out.

University spokesperson Nathan Skolski said in a written statement that construction resumed yesterday, April 10.

“We are advised by professional engineers that the shoring wall remains stable and that raising the excavation depth will also mitigate future soil settlement on adjacent land, including Hadgraft Wilson Place," he wrote. "In accordance with City of Kelowna regulatory conditions, work on-site is subject to the city’s approval and regulatory process prior to proceeding."

Skolski said the next phase of construction is to raise the depth of the hole and secure it.

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

Monique Saebels is a tenant and spokesperson for other residents of Hadgraft Wilson Place and is calling on the community to speak out on their behalf.

“We want to talk to the citizens of Kelowna and say look at what has been done to us," Saebels said. "We’re asking people to use their voice, contact them and ask how this happened. We want to spread the word about what’s happened to us so someone can be held accountable.”

Pathways Abilities Society, the owner and operator of Hadgraft Wilson Place, has put residents in hotels and paid for their food. At the moment residents are unsure what is going to happen after April 14 when their evacuation is set to end.

“I have an 89 year-old mother who is having a hard time with this. She’s stuck in a hotel room, very depressed and very upset. All our tenants are feeling it hard, we’re only given information week by week,” Saebels said.

READ MORE: 'Devastating': Evacuation of building next to UBCO construction site extended two weeks

She said the tenants have not heard from UBCO, yet the university has resumed construction.

“We’re waiting to see if UBC will come up with some temporary housing, or honestly just come up with anything. We’re left in the dark. Pathways has been incredible, footing the bills for the hotels and the (food) gift cards. Other than that, where is this going? And for how long?” Saebels said.

Saebels said UBCO seems to be more concerned with its project than with the people it has displaced.

“They don’t want to take responsibility. They’re talking about their building and the construction when their first concern should be us, and what they’re going to do about it. How are they going to help us, the tenants who aren’t on the street yet but it could come to that if we can’t go back to our building,” she said. 

Tenants will have to wait until someone updates them to find out what is going to happen to their homes.

“For a lot of people who moved into this building, it changed their lives. Some people were homeless before and so now they’re scrambling and thinking what if they end up on the street again,” Saebels said.

No one from the City of Kelowna was immediately available to comment.

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