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Council green lights ambitious high rise project on Leon Ave

Kelowna city council cautiously approved a massive three tower development for Leon Avenue on Tuesday night.

Despite reservations from nearly all councillors, the project calling for towers of 24, 28 and 42 storeys was approved in a 7-2 vote.

<who> Photo Credit: Contributed.

Supported by city planners, the hope is that the development will help spur revitalization in the most troubled area of the city.

"I have fielded any number of inquiries and development applications on almost every other property in the downtown," said city planner Terry Barton.

"I field very little interest in this area of Leon and Lawrence. If this is the project it takes to get this area off the ground, I think we should be prepared to support it."

Dubbed Water Street by the Park, the development is set to include 650 one, two and three bedroom condo units.

Plans also include office space, a 727-stall parking podium, 566 long-term bike parking spots and a pedestrian bridge connecting the towers above the street.

“There are a lot of positives and there are a lot of negatives about this project,” Mayor Colin Basran said.

<who> Photo Credit: City of Kelowna.

“We’re all fed up with the state of Leon,” said councillor Charlie Hodge said, who voted against the project along with Gail Given.

“But three massive towers next to our park and so close to our waterfront is not the answer. It’s not right for Kelowna and I know that in my heart.”

If the project actually comes to fruition, the 42-storey tower will be the tallest building in Kelowna while sitting directly adjacent to the Kelowna Gospel Mission homeless shelter.

"I wish it was less ambitious, and something I think that would be easier to achieve," said Luke Stack.

"He is setting his bar extremely high. But, I certainly want to give him a chance."

Several letters of support for the project were submitted to the city from surrounding businesses such as August Family Foundation, Hotel Zed and Global Okanagan.

"The social problems that this area sees on a daily basis is the very reason no development has taken place in the 200 block of Leon Avenue," wrote Chris Soban, news manager with Global Okanagan.

"I believe any chance to have a redevelopment of this magnitude will only benefit the people and businesses that must and live in this area of town."

The applicant will now have two years to begin construction on the site before a new development permit is required.

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