Residents displaced by tower construction receive helping hand from Okanagan College

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
WATCH: 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

Residents displaced by construction issues at a nearby tower in downtown Kelowna, B.C., received a helping hand on Friday.

However, the assistance is coming from Okanagan College — not UBC Okanagan, the university which is building a 43-storey campus that’s causing cracks and stability issues in nearby buildings.

Construction crews have dug a massive hole at 550 Doyle Ave., and nearby Hadgraft Wilson Place, a low-income apartment building, was issued an evacuation order because of safety concerns.

Click to play video: 'Kelowna man displaced from his home dies'
Kelowna man displaced from his home dies

Hadgraft Wilson Place is a subsidized housing complex for people with physical and cognitive challenges, and one of its displaced residents died this week.

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Jim Hadgraft, whose parents helped fund the building, had Down syndrome. He was 55, and it’s believed he died from complications of a broken leg.

“He started wandering a lot. The RCMP found him one night standing right outside Hadgraft Wilson Place with his groceries at midnight and had to bring him back to the hotel,” said his sister, Sue Bauman.

“On Sunday, somewhere in Kelowna … he fell, and in falling, he fractured his tibia.”

Bauman added, “I don’t blame anybody for this, except I don’t think this would have happened if Jim had indeed been in his home and been in a safe place.

“And a hotel room is not a safe place.”

Click to play video: 'UBCO tower construction triggers evacuation'
UBCO tower construction triggers evacuation

On Friday, the City of Kelowna announced that Okanagan College will temporarily open its new student housing building on KLO Road to displaced residents of Hadgraft Wilson Place.

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The city added that Pathways Abilities Society is finalizing a lease with Okanagan College, which will run until mid-August.

“Our residents have become a tight-knit community in the past year and this opportunity allows them to maintain the support of their friends and neighbours,” said Charisse Daley, executive director of Pathways Ability Society.

“Providing some stability about their next few months and having the amenities of homes will hopefully make things easier while they wait for the remediation of our building and next steps.”

The city says Okanagan College’s student housing building features a mix of individual rooms and common spaces, “as well as some suites which will be matched to the residents based on their unique needs.”

Click to play video: 'UBCO downtown campus one step closer to reality'
UBCO downtown campus one step closer to reality

“This has truly been a collaborative community effort to find a solution for the displaced residents at Hadgraft Wilson Place,” said Kelowna’s mayor, Tom Dyas.

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“City staff have been working diligently alongside Pathways, BC Housing and local developers to find options and alternatives for the residents, who have experienced so much during this trying time.

“We want to ensure this process continues to be handled with sensitivity, safety, and compassion.”

Global News reached out to UBC Okanagan for comment.

On Monday afternoon, UBC replied with an emailed statement.

“We are very appreciative of the accommodation and support that Okanagan College is able to offer to displaced tenants from Hadgraft Wilson Place,” said the university.

“The college is close to downtown and to a variety of services, so it provides an excellent option for residents.”

It also said “Now that exams have ended and students have begun moving out, we are pleased to also offer space in UBCO’s student residences.

“We have a variety of housing units that can accommodate the different needs of the HWP tenants. As space becomes available, Hadgraft Wilson Place residents who wish to stay at UBCO are more than welcome.”

Hadgraft Wilson Place opened in June 2023 and features 68 affordable rental places.

In all, 84 residents became displaced in early April after engineering reports revealed that a shoring wall at the construction site was unstable.

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Click to play video: 'City monitoring damage caused by UBCO build'
City monitoring damage caused by UBCO build

In January, city risk manager Lance Kayfish told Global News “although some settlement can be expected around large excavations and building construction projects, the movement seen in this case is more than expected.”

Currently, the displaced residents are living in hotels.

“Part of what makes this region exceptional is how partners come together locally in times of need,” Okanagan College president Neil Fassina said.

“In this situation, we were able to respond to the call and come together as a team to get our new student housing building ready for the Pathways community to have access to the space now, when they need it.

“We’re pleased to be able to welcome them onto campus and into OC for the next few months.”

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Click to play video: 'Plenty of behind-the-scenes work to deem evacuated Kelowna building safe to re-occupy'
Plenty of behind-the-scenes work to deem evacuated Kelowna building safe to re-occupy

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