Developer has tight timeline if Kelowna’s 'worst place in town' is going to be transformed - InfoNews

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Developer has tight timeline if Kelowna’s 'worst place in town' is going to be transformed

The proposed Water Street by the Park could still go ahead if the developer gets what he needs to make his numbers work.
Image Credit: Submitted/City of Kelowna
September 19, 2020 - 6:30 AM

Anthony Beyrouti wants help from Kelowna city staff and council so he can dramatically change a notorious stretch of Leon Avenue.

“I have three buildings that would totally transform the worst place in town,” he told today, Sept. 16.

As owner of Orchard Park Property Ltd., Beyrouti announced plans in January to build three towers, one of which, at 42 storeys, could become the tallest in Kelowna.

READ MORE: Developer plans to build Kelowna’s tallest building at 42 storeys

The project, called Water Street by the Park, would be next to and across the street from Kelowna Gospel Mission homeless shelter and just down the street from the Cornerstone shelter. Last fall, dozens of homeless people camped on the street before being relocated to a ball field on Recreation Avenue.

READ MORE: Shutdown of Kelowna homeless tent city catches campers by surprise

The land is already zoned for high rises but a key part of Beyrouti's financial plan was to allow some of them to be short term rentals through sites like Airbnb. He proposed an amendment to allow for such rentals but that was rejected by city council earlier this week, following a staff recommendation.

That left him scurrying back to the drawing board to get a development permit approved and paid for before the end of the year. If that doesn’t get done, he faces a $7 million increase in the development cost charges he will have to pay to the city, which could put the project on hold indefinitely.

“I think people aren’t taking into consideration what we’re building when they reject things,” Beyrouti said.

This is not a waterfront project where high rents or sale prices can be charged. It’s not in the northern end of downtown that’s rapidly redeveloping with high rises.

This, he said, is an area of downtown with a lot of social problems and empty buildings that he hopes to transform from something the city spends lots of tax dollars to police and maintain versus bringing in hundreds of residents to transform the area and add to the city’s tax base.

Initial plans for a hotel have been dropped because he doesn’t have the time for an expensive transportation study such a use near the highway would require.

His plan, now, is to sell all 732 units but he needs a development permit before he can put them on the market.

Therein lies another problem. To make his numbers work, he needs two main variances to the zone, one for parking and a second one for the height.

Beyrouti said he plans to build the biggest parkade in the city with more than 700 stalls but that still doesn’t meet city requirements. He can’t fit one more stall into the site and the numbers don’t work if he goes lower, he said.

He says he’s getting lots of calls from people who want to see him succeed and transform that area of downtown.

“If the people of Kelowna and the city want it, then we’ll solve a problem,” Beyrouti said. “I would like to make it work but I can’t do it by myself. It’s got to be a team effort. This isn’t some waterfront property on Bernard. It’s not the perfect place to build. We need a little help.”

By help, he means city staff and council will have to agree to his variances and quickly or it could be many years before that part of downtown is redeveloped.

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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