A whole new vibe is coming to Kelowna’s 'Packing District' - InfoNews

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A whole new vibe is coming to Kelowna’s 'Packing District'

Workers up and down Clement Avenue are busily transforming it into Kelowna's "Packing District."
October 01, 2019 - 6:30 AM

KELOWNA - When the B.C. Tree Fruits packing plant was ripped down along Clement Avenue in 2017 it opened the door to a whole new vibe in the neighbourhood that is suddenly bursting to life.

And a whole new name.

Early suggestions had been the Distillery District or Brewery District in honour of the flourishing collection of brew pubs along Richter Street.

“A few of us got together and the final decision was the Packing District,” developer Gary Tebbutt told iNFOnews.ca. “It was more respectful to the history of the area.”

Clement really started to transition in the mid-2000s as the City of Kelowna extended Clement to Spall Road, creating an alternate route to downtown.

In 2011, B.C. Tree Fruits announced it was closing its packing plant and relocating its retail outlet a bit further to the north. The seven acres fronting Clement was sold in 2016 and the old plant was torn down a year later.

Tebbutt said he bought the seven-acre parcel stretching from Richter Street to Ethel Street. He subdivided it into three parcels.

The easternmost parcel is about to become the Clement Business Park. Construction is expected to start this week with Tebbutt serving as project manager.

Construction on Clement Business Park is slated to start this week and will include four craft brew pubs. It's on the site of the former B.C. Tree Fruits packing plant that was replaced by the new facility seen in the background.
Construction on Clement Business Park is slated to start this week and will include four craft brew pubs. It's on the site of the former B.C. Tree Fruits packing plant that was replaced by the new facility seen in the background.

It’s a mix of commercial and light industrial that is creating something new in Kelowna and will include four craft breweries to complement those on Richter Street.

“I think the synergy of them (brew pubs) being concentrated is positive for all,” Tebbutt said. “It creates a real opportunity – with all the density of people coming downtown - for people to go out, enjoy themselves with the ability to still remain as a pedestrian.”

With high rises such as One Water Street and lower rise condo towers on the south side of Clemeet, there will be hundreds of new homes opening in the area in the next couple of years.

Residential towers, such as One Water Street on the right, will provide customers to the burgeoning Packing District along Clement Avenue.
Residential towers, such as One Water Street on the right, will provide customers to the burgeoning Packing District along Clement Avenue.

Vancouver-based PC Urban bought the other two parcels that were formerly the packing plant.

Construction is well underway on the 158 rental apartments called the Lodges at Packers Junction, bordering on Richter Street across from the new RCMP station.

In between, PC Urban just got its development permit for another light industrial/brew pub/eatery development called Powerhouse at Packers Junction.

To the east of the Clement Business Park, construction will start this fall on a gas bar and car wash stretching to Graham Street, totally transforming the area.

“This is what basically happens in virtually any city,” Tebbutt said. “Older areas become new opportunities.”

This is a time when people who have had successful careers in large cities are looking at returning to their roots, explained Brent Sawchyn, CEO of PC Urban.

“People are going: You know, I’ve really enjoyed the experience of being in an urban environment like Vancouver but it’s getting really expensive or it’s a bit of a hassle there,” he said. “I’m going back home or I’m going to go to a place where there are many opportunities and a lot of amenities for my lifestyle. But, because I’ve enjoyed the experience in the major areas of an urban environment with great coffee shops and craft distilleries and craft beer places, I would like to see that in the city that I’m going to move to.”

While there will be retail units in the residential buildings of the Lodges, the commercial/industrial mix will be seen more in Powerhouse at Packers Junction.

A new style of industrial development will be called Powerhouse at Packers Junction.
A new style of industrial development will be called Powerhouse at Packers Junction.
Image Credit: Packersjunction.ca

“It is a really interesting design - urban edgy, if you will,” Sawchyn said. “If you imagine a tasting place for some of the wine merchants through the Okanagan, craft brew pubs where they do some brewing on site and also provide a bit of a tasting room, eclectic catering people - food is certainly very important, very transformative. There’s some fabulous places in Kelowna, where you’re seeing guys who were very successful chefs in places like New York and Toronto who decided to move back to the Okanagan with their families."

Then there are the light manufacturing opportunities.

“There’s a collection of those types of businesses, not specifically just brew pubs,” Sawchyn said. “Whether it’s an electric bike manufacturer, whether it’s an interesting yoga studio, whether it’s an eclectic catering place, whether it’s an urban distillery, I think all of those are beginning to emerge in Kelowna.”

But, why in the Packing District and not at the Landmark Centre or closer to Bernard Avenue?

“The vibe is different,” Sawchyn explained. “It’s not quite in the core of the town per se. It’s very similar to what you see here in Vancouver, in Gastown and Yaletown. In Victoria it would be sort of that Chinatown - Capital Iron district north of the downtown core. They’re just some unique older places that provide a different awareness and a different vibe for people and people are looking for something that’s a little less typical these days.”

So, what does that mean for the traditional heavier industrial land just to the north?

“I don’t think you’re going to see the industrial disappear,” Tebbutt said. “But you will see a transition. Industrial is incredibly important zoning within a municipality. It’s the home of business and employment.”

“I think it will go through its regeneration as well,” Sawchyn added. “I think some of those buildings will get repurposed into interesting businesses we might not necessarily imagine today. Some of those buildings may come down and you may see more buildings of the type we’re proposing on Clement.”

The Lodges are expected to be finished by next fall with the Powerhouse to open a few months later.

The new RCMP building with the Lodges at Packers Junction rapidly rising behind it.
The new RCMP building with the Lodges at Packers Junction rapidly rising behind it.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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