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‘Eco-density’ construction changing face of downtown Kelowna

Downtown Kelowna is growing skyward as more high-rises are being built in the heart of the city.

With high-rise buildings popping up in downtown Kelowna, the landscape of the city is rapidly changing.

And a Kelowna-based development company is playing a big role in the metamorphosis.

“It’s so exciting to see the transformation downtown,” said Randy Shier, CEO of Mission Group.

“We are from Kelowna, we are here and we love building here.”

READ MORE: Two more towers planned for downtown Kelowna

The Mission Group has completed projects throughout the city, but in recent years has focused on the downtown core.

“We see ourselves as primarily downtown builders,” Shier said. “We want to continue to invest in Kelowna’s downtown.”

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While it’s not a high-rise project, Mission Group was responsible for the construction of the Central Green community at the corner of Harvey Avenue and Richter Street.

The Central Green development is situated on the old KSS site at the corner of Richter Street and Harvey Avenue and was constructed by the Mission Group.
The Central Green development is situated on the old KSS site at the corner of Richter Street and Harvey Avenue and was constructed by the Mission Group. Global News

The company also recently completed the Ella tower at the corner of Lawrence Avenue and Ellis Street. The 20-storey residential tower also features commercial space.

Mission Group has now started its latest project called the “Bernard Block” on Bernard Avenue and St. Paul Street, the site of the former Bargain, Bargain store.

The mixed-use development will include three towers.

Ella, a Mission Group development situated at the corner of Lawrence Avenue and Ellis Street, was completed this spring.
Ella, a Mission Group development situated at the corner of Lawrence Avenue and Ellis Street, was completed this spring. Global News

Construction has started on the first building, the Brooklyn tower, a 25-storey mixed-use building with 178 units. It is expected to be completed in the summer of 2021.

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The project also includes the Block tower, a 16-storey office building as well as the Bertram building, which will be 34 storeys high and feature 257 units. It will also street-level commercial space.

“It’s a a walker’s paradise,” Shier told Global News. “You’ve got everything that you want here.

“You’ve got restaurants, you’ve got cafés, you’ve got culture, you’ve got parks, you’ve got jobs, you’ve got residences, so people want be down here.”

Conceptual drawings of what will be the Bernard Block development on Bernard Avenue and St. Paul Street in downtown Kelowna.
Conceptual drawings of what will be the Bernard Block development on Bernard Avenue and St. Paul Street in downtown Kelowna. Contributed

The Bernard Block will revitalize a section of Bernard that many consider as not living up to its full potential.

“It’ll help restaurants, it will help stores, it will help retailers, the whole economy,” Shier said.

Downtown is in the midst of a construction boom, with a number of high-rise projects currently on the go, including the One Water Street development that will see the construction of two high-rise buildings at the corner of Ellis and Water Streets.

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The east tower will be 36 storeys high, the west 29 storeys.

READ MORE: Second condo tower at Kelowna’s ‘One Water Street’ being fast-tracked amid high demand

“In Vancouver, they’re calling this eco-density,” said Jon Friesen, Mission Group’s executive chairman.

“Eco-density is part of a movement that says if we can live in places in close proximity to everything else we need in life, including work and play, then it makes for a better community in a better city and a healthier environment.”

Mission Group will also be constructing UBC Okanagan’s second university campus, which will also be a downtown project.

It will be built at 550 Doyle Avenue, the current site of the Kelowna Daily Courier newspaper.

The development will feature three mixed-use towers, featuring academic space as well as office and residential components.

READ MORE: New UBCO campus to be built in downtown Kelowna

“It would be in the hundreds of residential homes, also a significant amount of office and retail space,” said Luke Turri, Mission Group’s vice-president. “It is a very sizable site, it’s over one and a half size acres, so it affords us a lot of opportunity.”

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Ground on the Doyle Avenue project won’t be broken for about two years, but, once complete, it is expected to add a lot of vibrancy to that part of downtown.

“The energy and just the dynamic nature of having a university campus in the downtown area will be transformative,” said Turri. “It’s going to be a game changer.”

As for more downtown development, Mission Group said it has other ideas and projects in mind, but it’s not ready to reveal those details yet.

“We have other properties I can’t tell you about but . . . we will continue to be builders downtown for the for foreseeable future.”