Construction work resumes at UBC Okanagan tower

Click to play video: 'Construction activity resumes at UBCO site amid structural damage in neighbouring buildings'
Construction activity resumes at UBCO site amid structural damage in neighbouring buildings
It's been idle this month, but some activity has resumed at the construction site of UBC-Okanagan's downtown Kelowna campus. The construction of what will be a university tower is being blamed for structural damage at nearby buildings, including one that displaced more than 80 people with physical and mental challenges. Klaudia Van Emmerik has an update. – Apr 11, 2024

Work resumed at UBC Okanagan’s downtown Kelowna tower Wednesday, ending a “voluntary” construction stoppage prompted by the discovery of cracks in neighbouring buildings.

“This will further ensure the stability of the site, and is the last planned adjustment to the excavation depth for the proposed permanent structure,” a university representative said in an emailed statement.

UBC Okanagan’s representative said gravel will be placed and spread throughout the site over the next two weeks, raising the overall depth of excavation.

“This work is expected to take roughly two weeks,” the statement reads.

“Engineering teams will be monitoring soil conditions at the construction site as the activities proceed and will be sharing progress with the City of Kelowna and Pathways leadership.”

The university has been advised by professional engineers that the shoring wall remains stable and that raising the excavation depth will also mitigate future soil settlement on adjacent land, including Hadgraft Wilson Place.

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Click to play video: 'University vows to help displaced residents'
University vows to help displaced residents

The City of Kelowna confirmed that work was restarting on the site and in the Pathways building this week.

“This is the first of many stages which will have to be taken to help stabilize things before moving forward on the project,” a City of Kelowna representative said.

“Work on the UBCO site was voluntarily stopped a number of times in the past months, but resumed this week under monitoring and approvals from engineering experts to ensure the work leads to stabilization.”

There were 84 residents at Hadgraft Wilson Place told to leave their homes after cracks appeared in suites and the building foundation. Further geotechnical and structural engineering reports showed a shoring wall at the university site was unstable, and a slip “could cause serious structural damage” to the building.

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The apartment building houses people with physical and cognitive disabilities, just metres away from a construction site where developer UBC Properties Trust has excavated an entire city block several storeys down to build a four-level underground parkade for UBCO’s $263-million Downtown Kelowna project.

They were largely relocated to hotels around the city and have been given food vouchers. Resident Monique Saebels said that’s where they remain for the next two weeks, at least.

They’re expecting another update later this week.

Shifting ground also damaged other nearby buildings, including the Okanagan coLab and the Kelowna Royal Canadian Legion Branch.

The construction site is the location for UBCO’s $263-million Downtown Kelowna project, which began in November 2023. The site was expected to house a 43-storey highrise and a four-level underground parkade. The excavation for the project has been called the largest carried out in downtown Kelowna.

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