Unsightly downtown Kelowna façade may remain in place for another year or more | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Unsightly downtown Kelowna façade may remain in place for another year or more

Behind this black wall is the show room for a proposed 33-storey waterfront hotel that may some day get built.

It has been well over a decade since Westcorp started making plans for a major waterfront hotel in downtown Kelowna.

And for many years they’ve had a storefront on Bernard Avenue prepared to serve as a show home that's hidden behind a wall of mostly black material facing the sidewalk.

There is no sign that construction will start anytime soon on the proposed 33-storey hotel at the foot of Queensway so the black hoarding will stay in place for the foreseeable future.

“They had building permits for internal renovations that were completed for the sales centre for the Westcorp hotel, which has a valid development permit right now,” Ryan Smith, the City of Kelowna’s community planning department manager, told iNFOnews.ca. “They’ve got it boarded off right now with plywood or coroplast because they’re not sure if they’re going to launch marketing for the hotel but if their development permit expires the city will be following up with them.”

Westcorp latest development permit was approved by city council in September 2022 and is good for two years, meaning their show room site at 327 Bernard Avenue could remain as is for another 18 months until September 2024.

READ MORE: Plans to build highrise hotel on downtown Kelowna waterfront moving ahead

The company started accumulating land downtown in 2007 and has had a number of development permits over the years.

They were ready to announce the brand name for the hotel in March 2020 but COVID hit and stalled the entire project.

When contacted by iNFOnews.ca, Westcorp vice-president Gail Temple would not give any hint of the company’s plans for the hotel site.

Westcorp is currently building about 1,100 rental units in its Ledge on Lakeshore project near Rotary Beach on Okanagan Lake.

“If they decide to start marketing the (hotel) project, they, can have that (hoarding) down in an hour probably and get marketing,” Smith said. “I think they have it up because they were worried about vandalism and all sorts of stuff to the front of the building. I think they were trying to protect the front and keep what was going on inside a secret. I’ve been in there. It’s beautiful what they’ve done on the inside.”

Smith walks by the site just about every day and is sensitive to the building’s appearance but said it does not violate any bylaws about unsightly premises.

“On the main street, it would be nice to have an attractive front to the building but that building’s never been an inviting building,” he said. “I don’t think we’ll see the day when the gates are gone from that just because of the number of windows that keep getting broken downtown. Overnight shutters seem to be the trend. It’s hard to argue with that when you see business owners having their windows smashed once or twice a month.”

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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