'Missing middle' housing may not be missing for long | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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'Missing middle' housing may not be missing for long

Machinery continues to work on land near UBCO despite city council not agreeing to a development permit.
January 14, 2019 - 5:00 PM

KELOWNA - Michael Holzhey believes he’s on the right track in trying to create “missing middle” housing in Kelowna. He’s just hit a bit of a roadblock.

He’s trying to offer an alternative to Kelowna’s current mix of housing that’s weighted heavily towards either single-family homes or condominiums – some of those being in towers.

“It’s definitely going to be cheaper than a single-family home and it’s going to be a little more expensive than a condo,” Holzhey told iNFOnews.ca. “With a town home, you have your own private entrance, you have more privacy. You don’t have huge common hallways and areas that you have to share. You have your own garage. Everything is your own, but it is attached to other homes and therefore a little bit more affordable than single-family.”

Holzhey is President of Watermark Developments Ltd. Last week he submitted an application to Kelowna City Council to build 154 town homes on eight hectares off Academy Way, just south of the UBCO. Council put the application on hold over concerns about the look of the buildings.

The homes would be in 30 separate buildings, so an average of five per building, all with street entrances, garages and back doors opening onto a park.

Watermark is not the only developer building this type of housing, but it may be the first to use the “missing middle” label.

Holzhey’s project doesn’t exactly fit what the City of Kelowna planners see as filling the “missing middle” gap. Their vision calls for fewer single-family homes in the suburbs and more condos and townhouses in existing urban town centres. That is, putting more of the townhouses, four-plexes, etc. in existing neighbourhoods.

“It’s the development that’s the transition between the two- or two-and-a-half storey single family house and the five or six-storey apartment buildings,” Ryan Smith, the city’s Community Planning Department Manager explained. “It’s still higher density. You see a lot of it in cities like New York and Boston. Montreal has tons of missing middle housing - the two to three storey walk-ups, row houses and that type of thing.”

Watermark’s “missing middle,” on the other hand, is in a brand new neighbourhood.

Watermark bought 285 acres of land just south of the university in 2003, rezoned the area and sold some of the land to other developers, like the Mission Group that has built student housing at the top of the hill and others who built single-family homes further down towards Sexsmith Road.

The idea, from the beginning, was to have higher density and student housing near the university and moving to single-family closer to Sexsmith. The latest proposal is the “missing middle.”

Last week, city councillors put off a decision on the project’s development permit to give Watermark a chance to come up with a better design for the townhouses.

This drawing of a proposed row house development was rejected by Kelowna city council.
This drawing of a proposed row house development was rejected by Kelowna city council.
Image Credit: From City of Kelowna Agenda

Holzhey will be meeting with staff and working on ways to get council on board, saying he only provided basic outlines of the design because he was expecting a fairly routine approval.

He’s also proposing a more “modern” style of building than what is typically built in Kelowna.

“If we ultimately get the blessing from council and they deem it to be a good project, then it will help us as well in terms of marketing and selling,” Holzhey said.

Once this project is finished, Holzhey estimates the Academy Ridge area will be about two-thirds built.

There are a couple of other, smaller, parcels of land with the same zoning as his project so more of the “missing middle” will likely be built.

“When we started off 15 years ago, we had no idea how this was going to look,” he said. “All of a sudden, it's all kind of taking shape. It’s quite amazing.”

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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