Westcorp to defend revised Kelowna hotel project at public hearing tonight - InfoNews

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Westcorp to defend revised Kelowna hotel project at public hearing tonight

Westcorp submitted a development proposal to Kelowna City Council Thursday for a 32-storey hotel building in the city's downtown core.
Image Credit: Westcorp
February 20, 2018 - 4:00 PM

KELOWNA - A reasonable request, a greedy-bait-and-switch or something in between?

Westcorp Development will find out during tonight’s public hearing how locals feel about its last-minute request to build a much bigger high-rise with a substantial luxury condo component on the city’s waterfront.

Planning staff are recommending council refuse the development variance that would create a mixed-use hotel and condo project built instead of the 26-storey hotel-only project already approved by Kelowna councillors.

Coun. Ryan Donn said it’s his understanding that Westcorp is claiming trouble securing financing for the project and needs pre-sales to make it viable.

“They say the banks want up front cash which means condos,” Donn said. “On the other hand, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more strongly worded no recommendation from staff."

He said council has received many more letters of support than those opposed to the variance but Donn noted the majority were from area land and business owners eager to see a large commercial project go ahead downtown.

However planning staff are unequivocal in their opposition to the granting the variance.

“The proposal’s overall size, height and massing are overwhelming for the subject property and its unique downtown context,” planner specialist Adam Cseke writes in a report to council, where he notes the site’s proximity to many of Kelowna’s most culturally significant places.

“In addition to creating shadowing impacts on these lower scale spaces, the proposals’ built form may create overpowering visual presence lacking the sensitivity and integration the property needs,” he adds.

While Cseke praises the mixed use aspect of the variance, he points out the changes requested would make the 33-storey building, sitting on a six-storey podium significantly taller at 131 metres than the city’s current tallest building, Waterscapes (27 storeys, 88 metres) or the soon-to-be-tallest, One Water (36 storeys, 119 metres).

“It has never been the city’s intention to achieve the region’s tallest tower on this property and public policy states that contextual fit with the surrounding public realm and neighbouring buildings are of utmost importance,” Cseke writes.

Because most of the paperwork has already been complete, Donn said approval tonight would mean the project goes ahead as requested.

The public is invited to address council on this proposal at tonight’s public council meeting at 6 p.m. in council chambers at Kelowna City Hall.

Read more stories about the Westcorp Project here.

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