History of Kelowna Courier building being preserved as new life takes root | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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History of Kelowna Courier building being preserved as new life takes root

The Kelowna Courier on Water Street.
March 07, 2021 - 3:30 PM

It may look a bit rough at the moment, but the old Kelowna Courier building is evolving.

It's done that quite a few times since 1908, when it first started to take shape, to today, though this most recent chapter is likely to be the most striking shift in its appearance.

Among other things, it housed the city's first newspaper, stood through two pandemics, been part of the city's Chinatown, been a social hub where the hoity-toity and the hoi polloi dined and in its most recent, ramshackle state, offered a visual reminder of days past.

As it's taken on new roles, it's expanded and been segmented, depending on the needs it was meeting, though the average passerby would have no idea.

"That's a thing with the ongoing history of a building — what you see now is not what was originally built," Randi Fox, a senior architect behind the redesign, said.

It used to be a one storey building, and only half of what is there now.

"Then they built the side addition and a second floor," he said. "Then, some years later, the adjacent building where the Lupita restaurant was, was built."

Soon, it will be a state-of-the-art addition to the Mark Anthony Group set of buildings, but its historical roots will remain to tell the story of this city.

"The evolution of the story is reflected in the way the building is assembled and what we're doing is we are further evolving that story," he said.

That idea feeds into the concept of adaptive reuse, the process of taking an old building or site, and reusing it for a purpose other than it was designed. Typically, it is closely related to historic preservation or conservation around areas of cities with rich history.

"In the case of the old Courier building, there was really nothing left of the original interior... it had been renovated several times, most recently when the Keg stripped it down to the bricks because that was the look of the '80s, to have exposed brick walls," Fox said.

Without an interior to save, the question was what needed to be maintained. 

"The character-defining element of the building is actually the Water Street facade," he said. "So that is the part of the building that we are saving."

The brickwork will all be restored, all of the windows have been taken out and they'll be restored.

"You know everything that was on there before will be brought back to what it was in the 1920s," he said.

The back end of the Kelowna Courier has been scooped out.
The back end of the Kelowna Courier has been scooped out.

It's a more organic way to preserve a moment in history and also move forward.

"It tells the story of the history of the building in a way that any casual passerby will look at and go 'oh that's the old part and this is a new part from 2021,' because it's going to look probably like a 2021 building 50 years from now when people look back," he said.

"What that does is allows the building to tell its story of its history."

Fox said a lot of people are misinformed about what heritage preservation is.

"They want to take old fashioned buildings that look like Disneyland or Kettle Valley or something like that because they think that's better," he said. "What that does is it actually muddies the story so that if you fake it, then the casual passerby no longer knows what's historic and what's not."

It's a complicated process both physically and philosophically.

In the days ahead, expect to see a lot of carnage as the building takes shape. Among other things, a large metal structure will bolt onto the front of that facade and support it, while the rest is being rebuilt from the inside out. 

Beyond historic preservation, the new Mark Anthony project will offer a 60-person wine bar, 150-person lounge, 60-person rooftop deck, a 300-person interpretive centre and tasting room, a 30-person education centre and lab and a wine shop with a 25-person capacity for a total of 625 people, according to city documents.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 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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