By RON SEYMOUR | Dec 6, 2021 | Updated Dec 6, 2021 | from Kelowna Daily Courier

A comprehensive redevelopment plan for an old mill site in downtown Kelowna will provide guidance on maximum building heights, location of new parks, and the type of housing to be constructed.

Kelowna city council is expected today to formally launch the planning vision for the 40-acre site owned by Tolko Industries in the downtown north end.

“The mill site is an extraordinary opportunity to realize a comprehensively planned (or designed) mixed-use, sustainable urban development,” architect Joost Bakker of Dialog Design, the consultants retained by Tolko, writes in a letter to the city.

“With downtown only a short walk away, close connections to the rail trail network and a site steeped in Kelowna’s industrial history, the property presents a tremendous future for Kelowna,” Bakker says.

Dialog, with offices in cities such as Toronto and San Francisco, has decades of experience working on projects like Granville Island in Vancouver, the Nk’mip Desert Cultural Centre in the South Okanagan, and the waterfront area in Ladysmith, B.C.

Other considerations for the future of the Kelowna mill site, to be addressed in the new planning initiative, will include the expected phasing of the redevelopment, the desired form of urban design, and utility servicing requirements.

At some unspecified mid-point in the plan’s creation, it will be brought back to council for review to ensure it is being crafted in a way “consistent with council expectations”, municipal planner Aaron Thibeault writes in a report to council.

The sprawling Kelowna site, flanked on its north side by Okanagan Lake, had been a sawmill since 1932. But Tolko shut the operation in early 2020 with the family-owned company citing poor market conditions, the high cost of logs, and the effect of government policies.

About 180 workers lost their jobs but dozens of people had been laid off previously in what were described as temporary curtailment of operations.

Removal of the mill’s industrial buildings began in early 2020. The Ministry of Environment has given Tolko until Feb. 20, 2022 to complete a detailed investigation into the condition of the long-used industrial property.