This corner of downtown Kelowna is about to change drastically - InfoNews

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This corner of downtown Kelowna is about to change drastically

Construction of the Brooklyn retail/residential tower is underway as the Mission Group brings high rise development back to Kelowna's historic main street.
December 05, 2019 - 6:00 AM

Fifty years ago no one was talking about live-work-play.

Back then, it was more work and a lot less play.

Kelowna’s commercial district was centred around Bernard Avenue within a few blocks of Okanagan Lake.

It was back in 1969 that, according to B.C. Assessment, the current building at 560 Bernard Avenue was built. It held a series of retail stores from Woolworth to the Bargain Shop before sitting vacant for most of this decade.

This picture of the old Woolworth building was from a brochure in the 1970's that talked about the store
This picture of the old Woolworth building was from a brochure in the 1970's that talked about the store "Featuring over one mile of counters with something for every member of the family.
Image Credit: FACEBOOK/Old Kelowna

But now it’s being transformed to what Mission Group Vice-President Luke Turri refers to as the live-work-play centre for Kelowna’s downtown core. With two residential towers and the downtown’s first high rise office building, it means people can virtually live where they work.

“Now that the office building is coming forward, you really can have this unique urban village concept in this part of town,” Turri told iNFOnews.ca. “It’s going to be a really meaningful shift in how downtown is viewed and how people use downtown.”

The Mission Group is a local company that has a number of projects under construction, including the final phase of university housing near UBCO and condos at Central Green (near Richter Street and Highway 97).

But it’s the four high rises near Bernard Avenue that will transform that part of the city.

This is what the Bernard Block will look like.
This is what the Bernard Block will look like.
Image Credit: liveatbrooklyn.com

It started with the Ella, at the corner of Ellis Street and Lawrence Avenue. This 20-storey, 116-unit retail/condo tower could have owners moving in as early as February.

“A lot of development over the past couple of decades has gone north towards the arena,” Turri noted. “Bringing it back down to the historic Bernard district is great. Ella helped move that trend along and Bernard is taking that to the next level.”

The Bernard he’s talking about is the three-tower Bernard Block development between St. Paul and Bertram streets where the old Woolworth/Bargain Shop building has stood for so many years.

The first tower, Brooklyn, is under construction with retail on the lower levels and 178 residential units on the top 19 floors of the 26 storey tower.

This tower is designed to accommodate Airbnb type rentals, which may be one reason it’s 97 per cent sold (versus 91 per cent in Ella) even though it won’t be occupied for more than a year.

Still to come is the 34-storey Bertram with 257 residential units that are not designed to be in the rental pool and the first high rise office tower downtown in the 16-storey The Block.

In all, there will be 16,000 square feet of retail space and 85,000 square feet of offices along with 551 condos (counting Ella).

This is a street view of the retail surrounding the towers.
This is a street view of the retail surrounding the towers.
Image Credit: hmcommercial.com

“Bernard Avenue’s retail landscape has been pretty similar for the past number of years,” Turri said. “Obviously, shopping services have changed over the years but they’ve been all in the same footprint. We’ve got 16,000 square feet of retail with some large, deeper tenant areas that can attract new tenants to the downtown that might not otherwise have the space.”

The office building will be in direct competition with the Landmark Centre, with its seventh tower – at 23 stories and 225,000 square feet – now under construction. The Centre’s 2,500 parking spaces are touted as a major selling feature.

The Block aims to cater to a different type of client.

“Parking is just one of a lot of things that people will be looking for when they consider an office space or a place to live or a retail experience,” Turri said. “Downtown, with the amenities that are there – the historic development has been there for over 100 years – it’s kind of difficult to compare (with Landmark). Those looking to be downtown are more interested in the amenity environment and being able to walk to shops and services.”

And certainly, if they live in the Bertram Tower, it’s a very short walk to The Block if they can also work there and the shops are at their doorstep.

Turri will be going to the City early next year for permits for the final two towers, hoping to start construction of Bertram in the fall with occupancy in 2022. Preleasing for The Block’s office space has just started.

Where to next for the Mission Group?

“We’re certainly optimistic about downtown,” Turri said. “We know that development in the downtown area will certainly be a big part of the Mission Group’s future. I’m sure there will be more opportunities to come.”

A depiction of the view from one of the suites in the Brooklyn tower.
A depiction of the view from one of the suites in the Brooklyn tower.
Image Credit: liveatbrooklyn.com

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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