KELOWNA, B.C. – The dandelions popping up on a downtown lot will soon be replaced with new ideas generated by an economic driver.
“The tech industry in the province employs more people than oil, gas, forestry and mining combined,” says Accelerate Okanagan CEO Jeff Keen. “It’s the fastest growing industry at over $23 billion in economic impact.”
Accelerate Okanagan is planning to build a technology hub in downtown Kelowna, on a vacant, City owned lot at Doyle Avenue and Ellis Street next door to the library.
The $32 million building is designed to house more than 100,000 sq ft of office space on six storeys.
“It is an expensive project, but it will be a flagship project for the Okanagan,” says Keen.
The entrepreneurship and creativity centre will be called the Okanagan Centre for Innovation.
“We’re trying to create an environment where collisions happen,” says Keen. “If you look at other successful communities or other successful companies, like Apple or Pixar or Google, they’re campus’ are designed for people to run into each other all day long.”
Keen and his team have been negotiating with the City to occupy the downtown lot for 18 months.
“The vision is very consistent with where we want to go in downtown Kelowna, particularly to drive jobs for younger people,” says Mayor Walter Gray. “I think it would be safe to say that the corner of Ellis and Doyle will be the busiest corner in British Columbia between Vancouver and Calgary.”
Interest and investment has come from all over the Okanagan.
“We’ve been very, very fortunate to have people from right across the community in different professions, whether you’re an entrepreneur, a successful entrepreneur or a large company, or an academic institution: they really want to be involved,” says Keen. “They see the benefit of it, so we’re fortunate to have strong support.”
Ground breaking is planned for the fall, with completion 18 months later in 2016, according to Keen.