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VIDEO: New Kelowna waterfront development labelled 'underwhelming'

It's not the label the developers wanted ahead of planned public engagement meetings.

But thanks to Loyal Wooldridge, they will now have to convince the public that their plans for the former Tolko Mill site on Kelowna's north-end waterfront aren't as "underwhelming' as he says.

"We have one chance to get that site right," said Wooldridge, as he doubled down on his comments from Monday's council meeting.

In fact, his criticism is every bit as sharp a day later.

"What I saw yesterday was a lot of towers, a lot of buildable area, 17 hectares of it, and a measly three hectares of public space which also includes the riparian setbacks which are legislative requirements," he said.

<who> Photo Credit: NowMedia

But a spokesperson for the developer points out that 3 hectares is over 7 acres.

"That's land that is riparian setbacks, parks, and publicly accessible space and in addition to that, there is private public space where pedestrians can walk over private land," he said. "So in all, the land that is being dedicated to public space is quite significant."

And Walsh isn't too bothered by Wooldridge's 'underwhelming' remark.

"I take more comfort from the very positive reaction we got from most members of council," he said.

"I think the people we've shown the plans to are generally very encouraged about it."

<who> Photo Credit: Contributed

The former mill site is 44 acres of prime land along the waterfront between downtown Kelowna and Knox Mountain.

Holar Developments is proposing a development that includes 3,500 housing units plus retail and office space and a waterfront walkway.

The plan also includes affordable housing and housing aimed at seniors and students.

Wooldridge stressed that the area needs to be for everyone, not just those who live there.

<who> Photo Credit: NowMedia (Jan 2021)

"We need to be sure that the public is getting benefit out of this, and we're going to create equity in the community when we develop the site."

Wooldridge points out that council has visited sites in Vancouver like the Shipyards, Olympic Village and Granville Island to get a better feel of what should be expected.

"What we saw was prioritized public open space for public benefit and that's what I'm really wanting to see out of this plan."

<who> Photo Credit: NowMedia

Wooldridge said what the developer has shown council is really just the first stage of a negotiation.

"This is really dipping their toe in the water to see the temperature of what we're willing to accept."

And Wooldridge has made it clear that what's been shown so far is not acceptable.

"I didn't even accept the plan yesterday," he said. "I think they should have come back with a more robust vision."

<who> Photo Credit: Holar Developments/City of Kelowna

Walsh points out that increasing the park elements come with other costs in the overall vision.

"The more land you dedicate to park, the more density gets squeezed into high-rises," he said.

Wooldridge brushes off the suggestion that maybe he's dreaming too big.

"I don't think you can dream too big when you look at an area development plan like this," he said.

"We need to make sure that however we plan it, prioritizes people."

There will be opportunities for public engagement on the mill site plans.

There are three open houses the city is hosting for the North End Plan Oct. 11, 14 and 15.

A separate Public Information Meeting for the mill site will be held at the Laurel Packinghouse on October 26th.

There's more information at kelownamillsite.ca.



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