Downtown Kelowna hotel project isn't just six storeys higher — it's almost twice the height | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Downtown Kelowna hotel project isn't just six storeys higher — it's almost twice the height

Westcorp submitted a development proposal to Kelowna City Council for a 32-storey hotel building in the city's downtown core.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Westcorp
September 07, 2017 - 10:00 PM

KELOWNA - After a decade of planning, it still hasn’t got a real name but Westcorp Development is promising their newly revised application for a much taller high-rise building will be a “glowing beacon” on Kelowna’s waterfront.

However the proposed height increase, widely reported as adding just six storeys to the already-approved 26, will actually come closer to doubling the height of the building taking it from 80 metres to 130 metres, while adding a substantial residential component absent from the original plan.

That promises to make council deliberations and public hearings on the redesigned project a beacon for concern about what Westcorp vice-president Gail Temple described only last year as a “pure hotel play”.

Sitting on what might arguably be Kelowna’s highest-profile high-rise site, the project has a long development history.

In 2007 Westcorp principal Phil Milroy financed what is known as a comprehensive development plan for a large swath of downtown, where the company also owns other property.

The plan, known as CD-21, would have governed not only the construction of the hotel site but also those around it, including height and density but also the placement of urban parks and street closures.

The centrepiece of the plan would have been the Westcorp hotel on land purchased in 2003, originally envisioned by the company as jutting out into Okanagan Lake, sitting in part on land in Kerry Park.

Public pressure at the time pushed the company to scale down their plans and pull it back from the water’s edge but it was ultimately all for naught as council of the day voted against the plan, forcing Westcorp to revise and scale back the wide-scale redevelopment of downtown Kelowna.

Construction on a 26-storey hotel was finally set to begin last fall, when Calgary-based Westcorp abruptly announced it would delay construction, claiming at the time further study was needed of the water table in the area, site of the old Willow Inn hotel.

Instead of proceeding, the company this summer submitted a new design, pushing much of the parking underground and adding six storeys and 49 residences to the original hotel, conference centre, restaurants and shops approved by council.

In its submission to council, Westcorp compared the height of the new design to that of One Water Street, a two-tower project on Ellis Street and Clement Avenue recently given council approval for a substantial height increase.

The development variance request was delivered to council in the dog days of summer and it will be winter before council again considers the Westcorp development.

Grumblings against the new plan have already emerged on social media — some are calling it a bait and switch tactic. Kelowna’s community planning manager Ryan Smith says the height adjustment requested is substantial and will indeed require a new round of public hearings and consultations.

“This is not a done deal. Being where it is, this property needs a higher level of scrutiny than other projects. One Water was quite a bit different, not on the lake front, not as high profile,” Smith says. “This will need much more careful analysis."

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