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City of Kelowna staff don't support trio of high rises in Prospera parking lot

City staff are recommending city council not support a site-specific text amendment for three towers in the parking lot of Prospera Place.

On Monday, Kelowna City Council will be reviewing a rezoning application for GSL Group’s mega-project at 1241 Water Street, which was first proposed in 2018.

New plans for a three-tower project were revealed in late September.

The developers are seeking a text amendment to the proposed building heights.

Under the existing Downtown Urban Centre zone building heights are restricted to 12 storeys or 44 metres.

The developers are proposing three towers that would be 13, 22 and 26 storeys in height and would sit on a podium of about 16 metres.

<who> Photo Credit: ICR Projects Inc.

In addition to no support for the text amendment, city staff are recommending the “early consideration” process, which was added to Kelowna’s Development Application and Heritage Procedures Bylaw in 2021.

It serves as a means for Staff to receive early direction from council for complex projects when a proposal pushes the boundaries of what city policy and staff can support.

“In these situations, it is valuable to provide council with an opportunity to make decisions prior to the applicant producing significant, costly, and potentially time-consuming reports such as: traffic assessments, engineering and utility analyses, geotechnical reports, and contamination reports, etc,” says a staff report.

The developer was seeking early consideration to gain direction on how or if to proceed with plans for a formal public parking proposal in the towers.

The current proposal includes 457 residential units.

It does not include publicly accessible parking for Prospera Place but does meet the minimum vehicle and bicycle parking.

That would see the removal of 233 surface parking stalls.

“If council supports the height increase from 12 to 26 storeys, the applicant is willing to discuss including approximately 100 parkade stalls within a floor of underground parking, which may be accessible to the public,” staff say.

Staff say the property is an important site for Kelowna’s rapidly evolving and growing downtown and should “enhance long-term viability and successful operation of an updated arena.”

In late January, the city said it would be seeking a new operator for Prospera once the contract expires in 2029.

<who> Photo Credit: City of Kelowna

“The current proposal does not complement or positively interact with the arena, and Staff are concerned about current and future impacts on the surrounding blocks, streets and Art Walk,” says the report headed to city council on Feb. 26.

“The proposal is a large residential development asking for height increases without any guarantee of public parking provisions for the arena.”

According to the report, a more “suitable” project would include an office tower perhaps in addition to a residential building or hotel with a parkade open to office workers in the day while providing parking in the evening and on weekends.

Staff say the project does not comply with zoning regulations. They explain that the UC1a zone does not allow for density or height bonuses but the application is applying for a “significant” increase without any payments to the streetscape or affordable housing reserve funds.

The project also does not meet several Official Community Plan policies.

According to the staff report, the separation between tower one and two does not meet minimum requirements, garbage/recycling are not functional within the parkade design, portions of the parkade face the street “necessarily” when the street interface should be “activated.”

The proposed height “violates” the OCP’s design and policy consideration in this area of downtown.

Additionally, the report says the proposal doesn’t factor in necessary road dedication along both Water Street and Cawston Avenue.

Staff say there is no “viable” plan to save trees along Water Street, which are protected.

Staff also told the developer it would be “beneficial” to not relocate utilities to accommodate a statutory right of way on the south-west corner of the site.

Staff say the number of new units that are being added to the downtown urban centre meet the city’s target rate of 4,500 new units “well ahead of schedule” and recommend this project be scaled down to comply with the OCP.

Kelowna City Council will get a chance to comment on the report and the project on Monday at 1:30 pm.

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