The Time Estate Winery received Penticton City Council’s support with a definition change needed to proceed with converting the PenMar Theatre into a downtown winery.
The zoning amendment bylaw adds winery as a site-specific use for the Penmar property. Harry McWatters, whose Encore Vineyards Ltd. is the parent company of Time, said the change will allow them to do what they thought was possible when they bought the old theatre.
The first phase of the project is expected to be complete in time for the 2016 harvest and involves the renovation of the existing
theatre area into a wine production and storage facility. The existing iconic domed roof design will remain and an outdoor crush pad will be located on the northern side of the building in an area that was previously used for parking. The internal wine production facility area features a tank room with up to 25 large fermentation and storage tanks, a large barrel room and a third room of similar size accommodating bottle and case aging and storage.
“The benefits are we are going to make a significant contribution to the redevelopment of the area,” said McWatters, adding that he had talked to nearby craft brewery and distillery owners.
“They are all within very short walking distance, and they are very supportive of our project.”
McWatters also spoke to the economic benefits of the winery project, which he expects will create 15 full-time equivalent, high-paying jobs.
McWatters said there are a number of elements involved in the project, beyond just the creation of an urban wine bar and downtown amenity is just part of the project. He stressed that the converted Penmar will be an operating winery, but attention will be paid to the building’s heritage.
“A number of things are planned, first of all the preservation of, if not a historical building, but certainly a building that has been in the community a long time, since 1956,” said McWatters, who is a wine industry pioneer in the Okanagan.
“In a number of weeks I will be starting my 49th vintage in the Okanagan. It started exactly three kilometres away from where this winery is,” said McWatters. “The idea of a winery in the city is not new, it has just come back again.”
A neighbour, who lives in a 35-unit condo behind the building said that he was in support of the project, but there were concerns about possible odours and noise coming from the building.
“We would hope that any odours coming from the winery would be deemed pleasant ones,” said McWatters, who added that attention was given to the placement of machinery to minimize noise impact on the neighbourhood.
Coun. Max Picton moved that council support the needed zoning change, saying the Penmar was an important part of the downtown.
“I think this is a fantastic addition to our downtown and I really love the fact while it may not be a heritage building it is an iconic building. The fact that some of the original building material are going to be showcased in that is fantastic,” said Picton. “I wholeheartedly support the staff recommendation.”