Kelowna’s movers and shakers came together on Friday to discuss the long-term future of the city.
Developers, architects, the mayor and many city councillors were just a few of the stakeholders who were at Rotary Centre for the Arts to take in the Our Future City — Our Story conference, presented by the Okanagan chapter of the Urban Development Institute.
“The future of Kelowna is something that’s important to us, and we feel that it’s important to the community as well,” UDI executive director Jennifer Dixon said. “We’re in a bit of a crossroads right now. We’re a growing city, and there are issues that have been coming up. Things like affordable housing and that type of thing.”
The primary theme of the event, which is held biennially, centred around climate and how developers should be thinking about how to not only build energy-efficient structures but carbon-neutral ones as well. Canada Green Building Council president and CEO Thomas Mueller was the keynote speaker, and he said it is up to developers in every city to think about the climate.
Mueller closed his 30-minute presentation, which included reference to the recent dire warning about global warming from the world’s leading scientists, by quoting Ronald Reagan. “If not us, who? If not now, when?”
“It was really timely to have Mr. Mueller, because of what’s been happening over the summer,” Dixon said. “Practically all of August with the fires … it is on people’s minds. There are things like the Step Code and different things like that. It will increase costs, so we have to think about that.
“But it was good to have a leader to come in and talk about some of the things that are happening, what are some of the options that are out there, and just inform people.”
The crowd split up into groups for the rest of the afternoon to discuss and learn more about six current and important topics pre-determined by UDI: technology, transportation, city architecture, housing affordability, the aging population and agriculture.
“We want to provide an incubator for setting a new vision, educating some of the leaders, the developers, the planners, municipal staff, a lot of the councillors are here today,” conference chairman Kevin Jackson said. “And we want to provide them with a new set of ideas and visions that they can use as tools to grow our city in a responsible manner.”
One of the marketing tools for the event was a time-lapse video that showed what downtown Kelowna could look like well in the future. It’s never too early to start thinking about it, according to Jackson.
“That’s a visual tool that we’re showing to cast a vision based on existing zones, all the commercial zones downtown,” Jackson said. “This is what is currently planned for the city, so is this really this urban centre development this is what is being pushed by council, this is what’s being pushed by other policymakers. Is this what we want? Wakeup call. This is what it’s going to look like.”
“Whether you’re interested in architectural guidelines or we don’t want that type of densification in one area or how is this affordable? That’s exactly why we’re doing this.”
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