Kelowna city council approves massive downtown housing project | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kelowna city council approves massive downtown housing project

Pictured is a rendering of Water Street by the Park high-rise development on Leon Avenue in downtown Kelowna.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Anthony Beyrouti
January 13, 2021 - 9:04 AM

The majority of Kelowna city councillors held their noses and agreed to allow three high-rise towers to be built along Leon Avenue downtown.

At last night’s council meeting, Jan. 12, they approved Water Street by the Park with its three towers reaching up to 42 storeys across the road from the Kelowna Gospel Mission homeless shelter. It’s in the same block that was a campground for dozens of homeless people in the fall of 2019.

“There’s a lot of mention tonight about the challenges, especially the social challenges, on Leon that we’re well aware of in Kelowna,” councillor Loyal Wooldridge said. “A lot of the letters that were read (tonight) suggest that gentrification like this is going to solve a lot of those social challenges.

“I think it’s really important that we all step back and realize that the work we’re doing on the social side and actually housing people is actually going to solve that, not bringing wealthy people to Leon. That’s not going to solve the social challenges we have. So, I don’t think that’s how we have to make our decision tonight.

“I do have some trepidation with this application.”

But, other councillors stressed the need to revitalize that area of downtown and Wooldridge, himself, said doing nothing is not an option.

Councillor Gail Given, who was one of two councillors to vote against the project (the other being councillor Charlie Hodge) was particularly concerned about a five-storey concrete wall that will run almost the full length of the block on the back side of the project, next to the back alley.

“The final built form is what we’ll have to look at for a very long time,” Coun. Given said, noting that it looks like buildings designed for Vancouver and plopped into Kelowna with no sensitivity to the local situation.

Staff told council there was no room for landscaping on the street since the buildings will fill the entire site.

“There are a lot of positives and there are a lot of negatives about this project,” Mayor Colin Basran said. “I think this is also indicative of, given the sheer mass and density of this, that’s what happens when you have someone maybe not familiar with the local market who overpays for properties and then has to find a way to get the value out of it.”

Anthony Beyrouti, the developer, told council he wants to start selling some of the 650 units planned for the project this spring in the hopes of starting construction before the end of the year.

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