Little pushback on giant towers
Trevor Nichols - Aug 30, 2017 - Biz Releases

Image: City of Kelowna
Council gave the enthusiastic go-ahead to two proposed highrises in downtown Kelowna.

Before long, Kelowna will be home to two new towers, the tallest between Metro Vancouver and Calgary.

Kelowna city council gave the go-ahead last night for North American Development Group, the developers of the One Water Street project, to build its highrises nearly 100 metres taller than the current zoning bylaw allows.

The 36- and 29-storey towers will sit at 1187 Sunset Dr., at the site of the infamous “dirt pile” that has occupied the property for years.

The towers will contain a total of 404 residential units, sitting atop a three-storey podium. The podium will house close to 500 parking stalls, hidden by “a quarter mile” of retail space fronting Sunset Drive, Clement Avenue and Ellis Street.

The two towers will also be complemented by a rooftop gardens and an amenity space that includes pools, sports facilities, barbecue pits and greenery.

With the tallest of the two buildings stretching 119 metres into the air, the project will be 97 metres higher than the currently allowed zoning.

Image: City of Kelowna

However, the city’s urban planning manager, Terry Barton, pointed out that the city has been planning for years to put taller structures and more density in the area.

The project’s developers also made a case for the height variance, saying that taller, thinner towers have allowed them to create more green space and amenities on the property, and that they will actually let more light through during the course of the day.

While most of council said they were happy to approve the height variance, Coun. Charlie Hodge was the lone holdout.

He was the sole councillor to vote against the proposal (Coun. Brad Sieben declared a conflict and recused himself from the discussion), citing height as his primary concern.

Hodge called the proposed project “world-class,” but repeatedly pressed the developers on why they had to build so high, and raised concerns about the impact the buildings’ shadows will have on nearby residential neighbourhoods.

Only two members of the public weighed in on the massive towers, both indicating they didn’t want to see them built.

Pat Doyle said the buildings represent too much density in the area, and that adding more than 400 homes in such a confined space would mean “chaos,” especially on already clogged roads.

Most of council, however, was wildly enthusiastic about the project.

Coun. Luke Stack echoed the sentiments of most of council when he said that a development of this calibre is exactly what Kelowna has been waiting for.

He said that when he was first elected to council, his “clarion call” was to “fix the downtown,” and “basically get it moving again.”

Council has been working for years to accomplish that, and part of that vision was to add significantly more density in the area where the towers will be built.

“People have been ribbing me for many years, ‘what are we going to do with that dirt pile on Ellis?’” he said, and the One Water Street development is exactly the kind of building he had hoped to see there.

Mayor Colin Basran went even further, saying he would be bragging to his grandkids about approving such a great project.

“We’ve obviously seen a lot of development applications, and I know we don’t take them for granted, but certainly some stand out in our minds more than others,” he said. “I can tell you that if what is proposed is built in our community, at some point down the road, when I am down there with my kids, with my grandkids, whatever the future may hold, this will be one that stands out for me, and I will have been proud to support it.”

More information on the One Water Street proposal is available in the Aug. 29 council agenda.

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