Revamp of downtown Kelowna historic building takes new, smaller shape

The Mark Anthony Group has new plans for its lot on Water Street. COURTESY: CITY OF KELOWNA

Plans for a historic downtown Kelowna building are being scaled back, and it may bring new life to what’s devolved into stagnant construction site sooner than later.

The Mark Anthony Group purchased the old Kelowna Courier Building on Water Street and four years knocked down everything but the brick facade.

The plan was to incorporate the historic exterior into a two-storey wine bar, lounge, education centre, lab and a wine shop. Those plans, however, never came to be due to liquor licensing troubles, and the building has sat as a vacant construction zone ever since.

This April, it looked like changes were on the horizon and the Mark Anthony Group made known that its aspirations for the building had grown and they wanted to build a 12-storey boutique hotel on the property.  Now these plans are also poised to fade into the building’s history.

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“After preliminary feedback on the form and character of the hotel development and neighbourhood consultation, the applicant informed staff on May that the application would need to be significantly changed,” reads a City of Kelowna report prepared by planning specialist Adam Cseke, and expected to be presented to council on Monday.

“The development proposal now is for a four-storey commercial building, with the opportunity for a residential suite.”

Click to play video: 'Vintners not concerned about new alcohol guidelines'
Vintners not concerned about new alcohol guidelines

The potential uses of the building include, but are not limited to a restaurant, wine tasting room, wine shop, urban winery, distillery, urban market, events space, and a residential unit. A zoning amendment will have to be approved to get the height of four storeys, as the site is currently approved for three storeys.

The city report indicates that staff approves of the Mark Anthony Group’s new plan.

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“Staff are supportive of the proposed site-specific text amendment to increase the allowable height and density on the subject property,” Cseke said.

“The applicant has been in discussion with staff on the condition of the crane onsite and the condition of the stalled construction site on the subject property. The applicant agreed to a fast-tracked schedule to expedite the project’s reconstruction start date. A development permit for a four-storey mixed use building will come forth to council shortly to analyze the form and character.”

In order to accommodate the project’s accelerated schedule, a tax amendment application is needed prior to finalizing the development permit submission.

The lot that’s seeing all the changes is one of the more historic in the city.

One part of it, 1580 Water St. was originally built as a one-storey building in 1908 to house the Kelowna Courier, one of Kelowna’s original newspapers.

The second storey of the building was added in 1928. The Kelowna Courier continued to occupy the building until 1957 when the business moved to a new location on Doyle Avenue. From this point, the building hosted a series of businesses, including the Keg restaurant.

The other address included in the lot is 1570 Water St., which was was originally built circa 1910 to house a Chinese restaurant on the ground floor with living quarters above. The building changed ownership numerous times over the years but has always remained a restaurant, and served as an extension of the Keg restaurant at one point.

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More recently, the building housed La Lupita restaurant. Though the building was originally built in brick, similar to 1580 Water St., the brick had  stucco applied over it in the post-Second World War era. The original 2019 application, where the building was largely demolished, removed the stucco and refurbished the original brick façade facing Water Street.

The site at 1570-1580 Water Street had a development permit approved Dec. 14, 2020.

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