Kelowna low income housing preserved despite devastating fire - InfoNews

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Kelowna low income housing preserved despite devastating fire

The fire on Truswell Road quickly engulfed a building under construction and spread next door.
Image Credit: Contributed/Lora Proskiw
July 05, 2019 - 6:00 PM

KELOWNA - When nine units of the Walnut Grove Motel burned to the ground two years ago, Dennis Kovacic suddenly had options.

No one would have faulted him for throwing his hands in the air and selling the property to one of the developers who came by with an offer. The old, low-income housing he’d long owned near Mission Creek is in an increasingly prestigious area of town.

He could have come up with his own re-development plan and potentially made a mint.

Or, he could have repaired the damage and continued business as usual.

He chose the latter option.

“People need an affordable place to live and I was going to rebuild no matter what,” said Kovacic.

“And it’s more than just a job and a business for me. I grew up here and the people who live here are good people. I just wanted it to just go on like it was before.”

With that in mind, Kovacic made sure to reach out to the people who were made homeless when a fire ripped through nine units of the old motel.

“Several of them found new places to live, and a couple passed on, but we got four tenants back,” he said.

“I tried my hardest to get everyone back here and we managed to get four, so that’s good.”

One of the people displaced by the fire was Michael Sieux.

The 69-year-old made headlines in the immediate aftermath of the fire, when it became known that he couldn’t find any place to live within his price limit, and had to move into the Gospel Mission shelter. In time, Kovacic said, he found a home and is happy there, though he still swings by to visit.

"He's doing a lot better now," said Kovacic.

The rest were able to move in after May 1, just a couple of months short of two year anniversary of the fire.

It took a lot longer getting things up and running than Kovacic thought it would.

“It was a stressful situation, rebuilding took longer than expected we thought we’d been up and going right away but there were a lot of delays,” he said. 

“Now it’s just another chapter.”

The fire on Truswell Road was July 8 and started in a six-storey unoccupied building at the Water’s Edge development, where work was being done.

That building was wiped out, and the fire also tore through the upper floors of the adjacent occupied building in the development.

Twenty-two units were destroyed and the entire building was evacuated due to damage.

That rebuild has yet to be completed and residents have yet to move home.

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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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2019
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