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‘Slap in the face’: Kelowna council slams door on 35-storey downtown highrise

Coun. Ryan Donn said the proposal felt like a ‘PR stunt’ from the get-go
A rendering of the proposed tower included in New Town Architecture’s January 2021 application to the city. (Contributed/New Town Architecture)

Kelowna city council has staunchly rejected a Bertram Road highrise, at one point imagined to be the city’s next tallest building.

The building, abutting the under-construction Bernard Block towers, was first proposed at 46 storeys in January — 34 storeys taller than the 12 allowed in the area. That was whittled down to 35 storeys before it landed on councillors’ desks for early consideration Monday but Coun. Ryan Donn still described the proposed height variance as a “slap in the face.”

“You dropped off a 46-storey application the day after a 43-storey tower (was approved). It just feels like a PR stunt,” said Donn, referring to council’s January approval of Water Street by the Park, currently slated to be Kelowna’s next tallest building.

“I’m looking forward to voting against this today because I feel like it’s a bit of a waste of time.”

The project was planned to have 276 homes, of which the developer said 44 per cent would be sold or rented below market value — starting around $200,000. The developer maintained that it needed density to make the project affordable and provide some needed housing variety in the downtown core. The 12-storey zoning and even the 20-storey variance staff said it would support based on the developer’s affordable offerings, would only be viable for a pricier development.

“If we go to a 20-storey building, we’re just building condos. Is that what you want? More luxury condos?” said Ed Romanowski, Mercidian Group’s executive chair.

Mayor Colin Basran questioned the developer’s thought process, asking why Mercidian would buy land in the most expensive areas in the city — downtown — with a goal of building affordable housing. He mentioned the city’s other urban cores, Rutland, Landmark, Pandosy and Midtown, as other areas the developer could’ve explored.

“And now you’re coming to say, ‘We paid so much for these, now we have to have this massive project; that’s the only way it works,’” he said.

“Well, of course, because you just bought land in the most expensive part of our community.”

Council unanimously rejected the project.


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