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Kelowna council to get first look at concept plans for the redevelopment of Tolko Mill site

On Monday, Kelowna City Council will get its first look at the long-awaited concept plans for the redevelopment of the former Tolko Mill Site.

Planning has been ongoing for well over a year and the last time Kelowna council visited the topic was in March 2022 when they reviewed tours of recreation centres and waterfront redevelopment sites in the Lower Mainland.

Now, city staff will be presenting a summary of public engagement, concept plans and steps for moving forward on the major project.

“The Mill Site comprises the old Tolko Lumber Mill and the adjacent BC Tree Fruits Site, presenting a rare chance to establish an iconic, mixed-use neighbourhood while fulfilling a range of community objectives for housing, transportation, waterfront amenity, employment, and sustainability,” says a report prepared by Dialog, a Vancouver-based development company.

<who> Photo Credit: NowMedia </who> The former Tolko Mill site has been vacant since it shut down in early 2020.

Similar to the redevelopment of the North End, the Mill Site redevelopment includes three concept plans.

Those include balance (concept one), rhythm (concept 2) and emphasis (concept three).

Although each concept features an individual focal point, they all have three to four hectares of parks and open space, upwards of 3,500 residential units including affordable housing and about 350 “low impact uses” such as seniors’ residences or student housing.

In addition, each concept plan includes about 225,000 square feet of office or retail space and 950,000 square feet of “undetermined flexible spaces.”

A few historical buildings would be maintained throughout the build out, including the No. 5 shed and the loading dock, which would provide an “exciting opportunity to connect locals and visitors with Okanagan culture.”

Those two buildings would be the heart of the future Mill Site community.

Concept One – Balance

The first concept includes three distinct open spaces that would strive to “tell the story of industry, culture and ecology.”

The first destination spot would be The Milling Place at the centre, which would include a green space and plaza that could be used for events, markets, cafes and retail and a signature park.

The second destination would be The Workshop which would operate as a moorage while also providing amenity for artisan, makers, cafes and some outdoor gathering spaces.

The third would be Sutherland’s Soft Spot which would be an all-season park that would operate as a paddle-sport launch centre with picnic area and shade structures. In the winter it would operate as a warming hut that supports skating, winter spots and fat tire biking.

“North South connectivity along a distinct rail trail pedestrian and cycleway is bisected by the green street of Okanagan Ave,” the report adds.

<who> Photo Credit: Dialog </who> Concept plan one.

Concept Two – Rhythm

The second concept focuses heavily on green space with a diagonal, pedestrian-centered street that would operate as a connector between Rotary Marsh Park and two open spaces: The Civic Wedge and Green Wedge.

According to Dialogs’ report, the two spaces would act as the main connectors for smaller parks and gathering areas like neighbourhood pocket parks, play spaces and central green spaces.

The connection of Rotary Marsh and Sutherland Bay Park would be the focal point.

Under this concept, the loading dock would host semi-open air artisan markets while the No.5 shed could host music, weddings, gallery showings, and other large gatherings.

<who> Photo Credit: Dialog </who> Concept plan two.

Concept Three – Emphasis

The third concept would see the loading dock and No. 5 shed as the main focus, which would open out into a large, flexible green space and waterfront plaza.

The area would host active maker spaces, breweries, shops and cafes as well as a floating spa and waterfront restaurant.

According to the report, the Living Mill area would include a centralized urban wooded area, the Harbour Park would provide flexible space for hosting a variety of events and The Launch would offer an all-seasonal beach area and barge-turned-hot-pool next to the restaurant.

<who> Photo Credit: Dialog </who> Concept plan three.

Next steps will see a designated team launch public engagement to gather public input.

“Since the public engagement for the (North End Plan) has been delayed due to the unfolding wildfire situation, an opportunity has been identified to coordinate the two engagement campaigns,” says a staff report.

“Specifically, staff is working with the Mill Site team to hold joint, open-house engagement events in the community in October.”

Public input, formal staff review, and technical considerations are to be used to inform the development of a final concept plan for the Mill Site that will be returned to council for review.

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