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Kelowna city council ‘cautiously optimistic’ in giving green light to massive downtown project

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An eyesore for years in Kelowna’s downtown may soon become a construction zone for a massive project that could become the city’s tallest building.

On Tuesday night, city council gave the green light to Orchard Park Properties to develop three towers along the 200 block of Leon Avenue, including one that will be a soaring 42 storeys.

Council voted 7-2 in favour of the plans, with the other two towers cited as being 24 and 28 storeys tall, with 650 total units being constructed.

Read more: Developer back with latest proposal to transform troubled city block in downtown Kelowna

“It was very exciting to get so much (council) support,” Anthony Beyrouti of Orchard Park Properties told Global News on Wednesday morning.

“We think we can do something spectacular there, and we’re very excited to get going.”

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An artist’s rendition of what the street-level view would look like. Orchard Park Properties

Beyrouti said a website about the towers has already been launched, and that “it’s been an incredible morning, to be honest.”

Council, however, did have some reservations regarding the massive, multiphase project, which is being called Water Street by the Park.

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Kelowna mayor Colin Basran said the project will bring some vibrancy to that stretch of Leon, but “that it is fairly ambitious. It’s a large project, which may be hard to bring to fruition.”

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The mayor continued, saying “while I appreciate the applicant’s enthusiasm, and belief that they can have shovels in the ground later this year, it’s a lot of units to sell.

“And so council is not entirely sure that this project will come to fruition.”

An artist’s rendition of what the lake view would look like. Orchard Park Properties

Councillor Gail Given voted against it, citing the project’s size.

“Maximizing density on the site may not actually be the right density for this site,” said Given.

Also voting no was councillor Charlie Hodge, who said there are places for highrises in Kelowna, but not near downtown’s waterfront.

“I know downtown businesses and the general public are desperate for a change in this area. I know I am. I’m frankly fed up with what’s been going on,” said Hodge.

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“We’re all fed up with the decay and the state of lower Leon. But three massive towers next to our park, and so close to our waterfront, is not the answer.

“It’s not right for Kelowna and I know that in my heart.”

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The towers will be placed atop a five-storey parking podium, with 727 parking stalls for residences and 566 long-term biking spots. The project will also feature 45,000 square feet of dining and retail space.

“The height of the building drives how much parking you need,” said Given.

“I think you can achieve perhaps a better-built form if you scale back a bit, which allows you to scale back the size of the parkade – and perhaps allows for a more unique design or something that presents a little bit better.”

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According to project data shown to council on Tuesday night:

  • Tower A, the first to be built, will feature 18 residential storeys, with 156 units
  • Tower B will have 36 residential storeys, with 340 units
  • Tower C will have 22 residential storeys, with 154 units.

The data said the project will also provide $9.44 million in local taxes.

“Overall, council looked at the positives this project could bring, and the negatives, and positives certainly outweighed the negatives,” said Basran. “And so we approved the project.

“We’re hopeful it can go ahead, but it’s cautious optimism because it’s such an ambitious project.”