After deferring a decision two weeks ago, Kelowna city council has approved a plan for the latest five-storey apartment building slated for the city’s high-profile Central Green site.
The plan for the 108-unit apartment building, virtually the same as the one council refused to deal with in late January, will see the L-shaped building constructed on the Richter Street side of the site, just south of the corner of Richter Street and Highway 97.
A new public plaza is slated for the corner as part of the Central Green project.
Several councillors said they liked what they saw in an updated rendering of the planned building, however the project did not receive full support with one councillor saying the public process failed.
Architect Jim Meiklejohn told council the building is virtually the same as the one proposed last month but the pictures presented were better.
“It’s just rendered a whole heck of a lot better,” he said.
Council had expressed concern about the developer, Al Stober Construction, failing to live up to the original plan to include 12-storey towers on the Central Green site. It now appears all the buildings will be five storeys tall.
While most councillors said they were willing to accept that because the overall density on the site will be met with the shorter buildings, Councillors Charlie Hodge and Ryan Donn were not happy. They were the only two members of council to vote against approving the development permit for the building.
Hodge said he felt the developers decision to back away from including 12-storey towers on the site went against what the public wanted and what council based its original approval of the entire Central Green concept on.
“I feel it has failed the public process,” said Hodge.
The developer has said the soil conditions would not support 12-storey construction on the site.
But when pressed on that by Hodge, city planner Terry Barton said the decision not to build that high appeared to be more economic than practical. Other tall buildings have been, and are slated to be, built on similar soil conditions in the downtown area. But they are condominiums.
He said the because the buildings in question will be rental apartment buildings, the return on investment would not be high enough to justify the additional cost of building 12-storeys.
Despite the change, a majority on council said they felt the project is supportable because it is delivering most of what was sought by the city for the site, including density.
Mayor Colin Basran said he used to feel the same way as Hodge, but now feels the objectives set for Central Green are being met, with the only difference being the height of a few buildings yet to be built along the Harvey Avenue side of the property.
“Look what we are getting,” he said. “What we are we giving up? We’re just losing height.”
For that reason, he said, he was willing to support five-stories instead of 12.
Councillors also noted that the open space it wanted on the site—thanks in large part to a large new city park to be build at Central Green, as well as the new public plaza at the corner of Richter and Harvey, are included in the current development plan.