Legacy Project unveiled for Kelowna’s Downtown
A collection of concerned citizens identifying themselves as the Kelowna Legacy Group, submitted a letter this week to HM Commercial, City of Kelowna staff and City Council in an effort to delay, for one year, the Request For Proposal (RFP) process the City has set up for the sale of Civic land at 350 Doyle Avenue (former RCMP site).
HM Commercial is managing the RFP process for the City and September 30, was the cutoff date for groups seeking to participate in the RFP process. No date has been set for awarding the RFP.
Citing the need for more public consultation to develop a comprehensive plan for the entire area, including the four civic areas, (old RCMP station, existing community theatre, City Hall parking lot and the Memorial Arena site) the Kelowna Legacy Group pointed out in its letter that the existing Civic Precinct Plan did not include review of the two civic properties within the Kelowna Trust area (Simpson Covenant).
The group states it is short-sighted to not look holistically at all four of these properties synergistically when planning future community space in this prime location and are recommending that the Civic land at 350 Doyle Ave. could be utilized, along with other city owned sites, to develop a world class performing arts Centre, a much-needed community meeting space and required residential space, if future use of all of these properties is considered.
For a visual look at the Kelowna Legacy Group’s vision see the video: https://vimeo.com/363957263
The Kelowna Legacy Group is a who’s who of Kelowna citizens passionate about their city. It is growing daily and currently includes the following: Al Hildebrandt, Paul Mitchell, Ken Bessason, Norm LeCavalier, Laura Thurnheer, Tom Dyas, Lorraine Carruthers, Phil Whealy, Les Bellamy, Domenic Vinci, Cal McCarthy and several others.
“There is precedent with the City when it comes to seeking more public consultation and we are gaining supporters each day as people see the video.” say Phil Whealy, spokesperson for the Kelowna Legacy Group. “Before selling this public asset, let’s make sure we’ve considered all possibilities and consider creating a lasting downtown legacy.”
The property at 350 Doyle Ave. is in the heart of the city and one of the few remaining Civic properties near the waterfront. As illustrated in the conceptual video, all four Civic properties could be developed, over time to create an interconnected and well-designed community space.
Whealy continues, “A Public-Private Partnership (P3) arrangement similar to that used in the development of Prospera Place and the Okanagan Innovation Centre, should be considered before this property is leased to a developer for 80 years or sold and lost to the community forever.”
The City conducted public consultations, back in 2015/16 with respect to formulating the Civic Precinct Plan, but it excluded consideration for possible incorporation of the Community Trust lands into an overarching vision. In its letter, the Kelowna Legacy Group suggests that with a grander vision, the Trust covenants could possibly be reconsidered, given the potential benefits to the community.
Two of the Civic properties within the Kelowna Trust area are part of the Simpson Covenant and early discussions with the Simpson family indicate a willingness to consider a visionary legacy project for these properties if it benefits the entire community.
Public consultation with multiple stakeholder groups and a consideration of changing market conditions is needed, states the Group’s letter in order to fulfill the original principles of the Civic Precinct Plan and to create world class community facilities for Kelowna’s citizens.
Wheely states, “We feel these properties, as a whole, represent an important legacy for the wider community and that this one parcel should not be sold short of its ‘highest and best’ Civic use.”
The letter asserts that the Civic Precinct Plan is now dated and its assumptions and findings need to be reviewed in light of changing economic and social conditions, such as the softening real estate market and the implementation of the BC Speculation Tax. Extensive residential condo development in the downtown in the last five years has positively shifted vacancy rates upwards and tempered demand for new developments.
The Group held a news conference at the successful P3 developed Innovation Centre in an effort to mobilize public support. It recommends that a projected demand/absorption study be conducted to review the potential saturation of the market and to study the additional services and infrastructure required for greater core density before awarding the RFP.