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North End grocery store opens
Kirk Penton - 11:38 am - Biz Releases

Photo: Kirk Penton

Kelowna’s North End neighbourhood has its first full-fledged grocery store.

Ellis St. Market opened its doors to the public on Wednesday at 11 a.m., and general manager Chris Hansen said the store will serve more than just North End residents.

“There’s nothing like this in Kelowna, really,” Hansen said on Wednesday morning, a couple hours before the doors opened. “This is for people to meet here. They’re gonna say, ‘Let’s meet at Ellis Street Market.’ It is going to be a destination store for sure.”

Ellis St. Market is owned by Mai, Don, Chris, Sean and Pauline Pham, who also own and operate Oriental Supermarket on Hwy 97 in Kelowna.

Ellis St. Market, which is located at 1095 Ellis St., has everything a modern grocery store has to offer, including bakery, deli, 40-seat restaurant, dairy section, specialty butcher shop and grab-and-go meal options that are made fresh daily. Hansen is a fruit broker by trade, so he has great relationships with Okanagan farmers and will be stocking the store with fresh produce.

The market also boasts a wide range of international products from countries like South Korea, Japan and the Philippines, as well as from Latin America locales.

“We have international foods, and that’ll be tied into our produce as well. So you’ll get a lot of produce offerings that you’re not going to find anywhere else. We’ve got a great mushroom bar and then all the different kinds of Asian vegetables and stuff you’re not going to find anywhere else.”

There are also plans for live musical performances, a garden shop in 2025 and cooking classes from the city’s top chefs.

Hansen said Ellis St. Market will compete on pricing and offer mainstream groceries due to its affiliation with AG Foods.

“They don’t open independent markets every day,” he said. “So we have the benefit of being a farmers market and having the vendors give us the discounts instead of head office. We’re going to be able to offer it here.”

Starting Thursday, Ellis St. Market will be open every day from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Photo: Mary Deacon

Commercial project gets OK
Luc Rempel - 10:32 am - Biz Releases

Photo: Google

Plans for a new food court and gas bar at the Main Street roundabout in Sicamous are set to move ahead after council agreed to issue the necessary development permits.

Despite some reluctance from councillors, the motion to issue a development permit for the proposed build at 534 Main St. was approved at the May 22 council meeting. Only one councillor was opposed.

Coun. Pam Beech said she didn’t think the project is exactly what residents envisioned for the property but hoped they could “accept” the development with the work staff, and council did to tweak the project design and footprint.

The proposed development includes a gas bar and electric vehicle chargers as well as a food court with KFC, Pizza Hut and Burger King. KFC and Burger King will also feature drive-thru windows.

The location is the site of the former Mountain Park Motorsports store, which has been vacant since it closed in 2018. Current site plans look to repurpose the existing building for the gas bar and food court.

Designs for the project include extensive landscaping and design work as well as a small fountain and garden area with seating.

Coun. Ian Baillie previously spoke in opposition to the project when it came before the Sicamous planning and development committee, but he said at this point he felt it needed to go ahead.

“This is a hard one for me, because I don’t believe that this project represents what the people of Sicamous would like to see on that site, but the reality is the previous council approved half of it, and here we are,” he said.

“I don’t think the previous council should have done that. I was critical at the time, I’m still critical of that, but we’re in a position where half of it has been approved.”

Mayor Colleen Anderson explained how her opinion on the project has changed.

“I was one of those councillors that did vote against this initially,” she said. “I was concerned about another gas station in Sicamous, I was concerned about electric vehicles as opposed to something more modern, and I was concerned about the traffic circle and the traffic flow there.

“All of those things have basically been addressed, so I am ready to vote on this and get it finished up and clean up that corner and move forward.”

At the same meeting, council also voted in favour of a community plan amendment to allow for a section of the back of the property to be split into a residential lot, where the owner of the commercial development is planning to live.

Premier hears farmers’ plights
Sarah Crookall - 9:49 am - Biz Releases

Premier David Eby was in Osoyoos Tuesday, attending the Stronger Together: Pro-Agriculture Rally and speaking with South Okanagan farmers.

“There’s a lot of hurt and anxiety here. And it’s important to be here firsthand to hear from the farmers,” Eby said.

The rally kicked off at 2:30 p.m. with a couple hundred of attendees at Gyro Park.

“Especially because the impacts of climate change both from forest fires and also from radical swings in temperature that have really decimated a lot of the tree fruits and the winery operations here,” Eby said. “I was out at a farm earlier today and there are cherry trees with leaves but not a single cherry on them. So many years in a row of lost crops.”

Eby was not the only NDP member at the rally; Boundary-Similkameen MLA Roly Russell also dropped into the event, organized by BC Fruit Growers’ Association.

“Being able to sit down with them and talk over the kitchen table to be able to say okay, you know, how do we help support you,” Russell said.

In addition to the province announcing the $70 million replant fund to replace damaged crops, the NDP caucus says it’s aware that farmers are looking for more such as production policies and changes to insurance policies.

“We’ve received some suggestions from the fruit growers association about initiatives like low interest loans or additional marketing programs for the fruits that are still growing despite the weather impacts to support farmers,” Russell said.

“Also supports for ensuring minimum prices with grocery stores. They’re very helpful suggestions and there’s also our crop insurance program, which we operate with the federal government.”

When asked, Russell said he hopes answers from government will be coming soon.

“It’s a pretty complex challenge that we’re facing in terms of supporting how do we support farmers in all those different domains,” he said. “And so we’re gonna continue to figure out ways to do that.”

Professor top business woman
Okanagan Edge Staff - May 28, 2024 - People in Business

Photo: Contributed

Kelowna Women in Business has honoured an Okanagan College professor with its most prestigious award.

OC business professor Dr. Kyleen Myrah has been named KWIB’s 2024 Business Woman of the Year, given annually to a leader who is a champion for women in the workforce and role model within her industry who displays excellence in her field and is actively involved in the local business community.

Coincidentally, Myrah was unable to receive her award in person earlier this month because she was guiding Okanagan College business students at the annual Enactus Canada National Exhibition in Toronto. Myrah got OC business alumna Danielle Walker to accept it on her behalf.

“It’s been a privilege to be part of the journey of current and past students and witness their incredible growth and see how committed they are to community,” Myrah said in a press release. “Fostering the next generation of leaders has been a highlight of my academic career.

“I also want to recognize my mom, my first mentor who instilled confidence in me, always encouraging me to challenge myself, and to use my skills to make a difference and support others.”

Night market debuts Thursday
Okanagan Edge Staff - May 28, 2024 - Biz Releases

Photo: Downtown Kelowna Association

Downtown businesses, artisans, crafters, local food producers, mobile food vendors and community-based entertainers will be on hand when Downtown Kelowna Association launches its night market this Thursday.

The new, weekly event will begin at 4 p.m. on Thursday in Kerry Park with comments from Kelowna Mayor Tom Dyas and a ribbon cutting. Several buskers and a live DJ will be on stage in the park to set the mood.

The DKA Night Market will be held on Thursdays from this week (May 30) through Aug. 29, with the exception of June 27 and Aug. 1, for a total of 12 occasions. There will be 30 vendors at this week’s event, and there is room for as many as 50.

“A key component of the evolving programming strategy for the Meet Me on Bernard program, the Night Market aims to invigorate the late afternoon and evening in Downtown Kelowna by providing a fun and inclusive environment while supporting Downtown Kelowna businesses,” the DKA said in a press release.

Artisans, crafters, and local food producers can apply to be a part of the market here.

Suffering farmers to rally
Sarah Crookall - May 28, 2024 - Biz Releases

Photo: Sarah Crookall

Farmers are rallying for support of the agriculture industry in the Stronger Together: Pro-Agriculture Rally in Osoyoos on Tuesday.

From 2:30 to 4 p.m., the event, organized by the BC Fruit Growers Association, will have farmers and officials available to speak with members of the public at Gyro Park.

Organizers claim “growers are feeling the financial and emotional pressure of low yields, low returns, and an erosion of public awareness for local agriculture production.”

Following a heat dome in 2021 and a series of cold snaps in which temperatures hit -30 C, fruit growers have seen dwindling crops over the last few years.

“I am worried about the number of orchards and vineyards that are going up for sale,” BCFGA vice-president Sukhdeep Brar said. “I’m worried that there’s not a future in Okanagan farming for my kids.”

Speeches will address what buyers and decision-makers can do to help a troubled fruit-growing industry.

Speakers include BCFGA president Peter Simonsen, Brar, Okanagan orchardist Penny Gamble, and former agriculture ministers Corky Evans and John Van Dongen.

The B.C. premier’s office could also make an appearance.

Organizers with the BCFGA said there has been a general consensus among its members for getting out and speaking about the troubles farmers are facing.

Rental project too dense
Wayne Moore - May 28, 2024 - Biz Releases

Image: Contributed

In a rare move, Kelowna city council has said no to a rental housing proposal.

Council deemed the six-storey, 67-unit apartment at Glenmore and Highland drives to be too dense, despite being situated along a transit supportive corridor where council says it wishes more density.

This was the second time a developer had attempted to rezone the property for apartment housing. A previous proposal was defeated in 2021.

The concerns with the latest proposal were the same.

“Three sides are constricted,” Coun. Luke Stack said. “This zone may be too much for this particular site. I know we are doing it elsewhere up and down Glenmore Drive, but this one is really restrictive because of the Highland Drive Glenmore corner.”

Those comments were echoed by Coun. Maxine DeHart.

“I rarely ever turn down rental housing. We really need the housing, but what bothers me is this section is, I think, it’s too much density,” DeHart said. “That alley bothers me because not only are there going to be cars there, but there will be people walking down it.”

Staff said the lane in question is narrower than required and noted there have not been any provisions made for moving vehicles.

“I don’t support that type of density in this type of corridor, especially when you are looking at rentals,” Coun. Ron Cannan said. “It’s a great family neighbourhood, and I look at more of a townhouse development in that area.”

Council voted 7-1 to turn down the development, with only Coun. Loyal Wooldridge in favour.

Neighbour didn’t want hotel
Wayne Moore - May 28, 2024 - Biz Releases

Photo: Wayne Moore

Negotiations between the Mark Anthony Group and owners of a neighbouring property fell apart, killing plans for a boutique hotel and forcing the developer to pivot to a new, smaller design.

In order to construct the 12-storey on the former Keg Restaurant site at the corner of Water Street and Lawrence Avenue, a no-build covenant was required from the neighbouring building owner.

“In order to have windows facing that neighbouring property line you would need to have essentially a no-build covenant agreement. The agreement fell apart with the neighbour,” city planner Adam Cseke told city council Monday afternoon.

Verbal agreement

A representative of the Mark Anthony Group said there was a verbal agreement in place but when it came time to sign the agreement it fell apart.

“We were quite upset about that,” the representative said. “We would like to build a hotel eventually in the city of Kelowna if things permit, but at this time we would like to activate that site and build something there.”

The developer informed staff just two weeks ago of the change.

The proposal to vary the height from three to four storeys and increase the floor area ratio is the third in four years. After council approved the original three-storey building, demolition of the former building began.

However, when they were unable to obtain liquor licensing, work stopped in July 2021.

Site becoming an eyesore

“The application I would say is very emotional for council as what we have sitting in a big part of our community is becoming a little bit of an eyesore I would say,” Mayor Tom Dyas said.

“Our concern is that property has been sitting the way it’s been sitting for the length of time it has been sitting with a crane stuck in the middle of our street. It’s concerning if we are approving this today that potentially without moving anything forward it could sit for another two years.”

Council did wonder whether the city could intervene with the neighbour to try and negotiate an agreement between the two parties.

Willing to have talks

Director of planning Ryan Smith said while staff would be willing to have those discussions, staff is also trying to push the developer to either move ahead or move the crane and do something else.

“At this point the applicant has been considering their options and moving forward to public hearing with this option is the best case scenario. Maybe the applicant can share some concepts at public hearing where they are feeling like going,” Smith said.

“Maybe between here and then they hear what council’s discussion today has been and choose a different course. The priority is to get something going.”

Cseke said the plan of the developer is to come forward with a development permit application next month and begin construction in the summer.

The crane is back up and some site work is again taking place.

Council voted 7-1 to move forward to public hearing with Coun. Charlie Hodge opposed citing a concern over height. Coun. Mohini Singh was absent.

One property, 19 townhomes
Okanagan Edge Staff - May 27, 2024 - Biz Releases

Image: Innocept Developments

Innocept Developments wants to take densification to an impressive level with its newest project.

The Western Canadian company, whose development office is in Kelowna, has applied to the city to rezone 1508 Highland Dr. from infill to townhome housing.

If approved, Innocept would then ask to build 19 townhomes on the 0.6 acre property, which is currently the site of a single house.

“As we navigate the national and local housing shortage, there is a growing need to reimagine the housing market,” Innocept wrote in its rezoning application. “Urban townhomes, with their compact yet functional design, align perfectly with the changing needs of society.

“These homes offer an alternative to traditional single-family homes, making them a perfect fit for modern families and professionals.”

The development would be located on the northeast corner of Highland Dr. North and Clifton Road.

City planners will take a look at the rezoning application before it goes before council.

Signalytic reaches summit
Okanagan Edge Staff - May 27, 2024 - Biz Releases

Photo: Accelerate Okanagan

A Vancouver startup that enables remote health-care facilities to generate and share data has won the Okanagan Angel Summit.

Signalytic took home the $195,000 investment prize during last week’s finale in Kelowna. The company, along with five others, gave live pitches to the group of Okanagan investors, and they picked Signalytic as the winner.

“The Angel Summit has been an incredible experience,” Signalytic chief executive officer Nico Christofi said in a press release. “The quality of the investors involved, their due diligence and their advice throughout the process has been even more valuable than the winning prize.

“We’re so glad to have been a part of it amongst some other really tremendous companies, and to have the backing of an amazing cohort of local investors is an honour for us.”

The other finalists were Penticton’s skiKrumb, Armstrong’s Inhub Farms, Squamish’s FireSwarm Solutions, Calgary’s Propra and Nelson’s VersaFile.

Propra CEO Al-Karim Khimji captured the people’s choice award.

The Okanagan Angel Summit, which began in 2019, passed the $1 million mark in investment funds distributed this year.

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