It’s been a long time coming but Westcorp is moving ahead with its proposed 33-storey hotel and condominium project on Kelowna’s waterfront.
The next step is to get its development permit re-approved at city council's Sept. 20 meeting. That will allow them to move ahead on a project derailed by COVID two years ago.
Westcorp vice-president Gail Temple told iNFOnews.ca, Sept. 8, it'll be next year before they break ground.
“When we paused we were only at 35% building permit drawings,” Temple said. “We have not been able to resume those because we need cooperation from the (hotel) brand on that and we were unable to do that while we didn’t have a permit in place.”
Their last development permit expired in February after the project was called off in March 2020, just 10 days before they were going to announce the company that will operate the hotel.
At that time, it was billed as an “exclusive world-wide luxury brand.”
Westcorp is still working with the same hotel company but it will be months before it's announced, Temple said.
Nothing has changed in the plans since the last approval in terms of the size of the hotel and number of rooms, although that number is not yet set in stone. The detailed drawings will determine how many and what size the executive rooms are. There’s likely to be between 175 and 184 hotel rooms.
There are also up to 65 condo units planned for the building. That’s the number Westcorp has used in terms of calculating the number of parking stalls required but, again depending on size, Temple expects the final number to be in the 47 to 50 range.
It's been somewhat of a rocky road for Westcorp since 2007 when it started buying land between Bernard Avenue and Queensway, including the historic Willow Inn hotel.
That became part of a city planning exercise, labelled CD-21, that was intended to create an overall plan for part of the downtown core to ensure coordinated development for the area. That plan never materialized so Westcorp went forward on its own.
Its initial development permit application was opposed by city staff.
“It has never been the city’s intention to achieve the region’s tallest building on this property due to the property’s close proximity and relationship to important civic spaces including Kerry Park and Stuart Park, Okanagan Lake, Bernard Avenue and City Hall,” the report to council said at that time.
Council approved the project anyway.
It didn't go ahead as planned so a new permit was applied for in 2020, this time with staff’s full support, just as COVID was hitting. Staff support the current application as well.
One significant change since the 2018 application is the hotel is no longer destined to be the city’s tallest building.
That distinction goes to One Water Street which has 36 storeys. One of the towers at the Water Street by the Park development on Leon Avenue, currently under construction, is 42 storeys and council recently approved the 46-storey UBC Okanagan downtown campus.
There's also a significant number of other new hotel rooms planned for the city.
The Super 8 hotel on Highway 97 submitted an application in late August to add another 48 rooms. In July, council approved a third hotel in the Airport Business Park with 200 rooms.
The City of Kelowna has also put out a call for “expressions of interest” from companies wanting to build a hotel with up to 200 rooms attached to Kelowna International Airport terminal.
Westcorp has a major rental project under construction called The Ledge on Lakeshore at the former Hiawatha campground site near Rotary Beach.
Temple expects to be heading back to council shortly with an application for the next phase of that project which will have one 17-storey tower and two others at 10 storeys each. It will have up to 1,100 rental units.