#10 - Downtown boom

Castanet is counting down the top stories of 2015, starting today with No. 10 – the downtown building boom that is transforming the city's core and will continue into 2016. We'll count down the top 10 to Dec. 31 and feature our newsmaker of the year on Jan. 1.

Kelowna's downtown skyline is changing in leaps and bounds.

And, while the past few years have seen dramatic change, 2015 could become known as the year downtown started to grow up – literally.

The transformation of Kelowna's downtown really began in the mid to late 2000s with construction of Stuart Park and the elegant Madison complex.

It continued three years ago with the start of the Bernard Avenue revitalization project, the city's new wharf and the new yacht club building.

But, the change to the downtown skyline has never been as dramatic as in 2015.

Construction has been going on for months at the new Interior Health Centre and the Innovation Centre kitty-corner to each other at Doyle Avenue and Ellis Street.

Add to that the reconfiguration of the Library Parkade and the start of construction on the Memorial Parkade.

"That certainly has been one of the strategic initiatives of this council, to keep the momentum going downtown," said Mayor Colin Basran.

"I think it started with the previous council being open for business. Approving things like the IH building, the Innovation Centre, so this council certainly wants to keep building on that momentum."

The changes have been sweeping.

"There are a number of positive aspects to it. A successful city has a thriving downtown and, for a lot of years, our downtown core was not as attractive as it could be," said Basran.

"What I think is taking place now is that our downtown is becoming the heartbeat of our community, and we're really excited to see the development taking place down here. It's something we want to continue to focus on."

All four projects are expected to be complete in 2016.

The city hopes the two massive projects, which will bring thousands more workers into the downtown core, will translate into more residents and more activity in the downtown core.

You can also expect more in the way of downtown development in 2016 with the start of the massive Central Green project, construction on the new RCMP detachment as well as the new Westcorp hotel, which is expected to come before council in January.

"We're really hopeful that the Westcorp hotel will further add to that momentum, and many of us believe the development of that hotel will really be the tipping point for our downtown in that it really will become the hub or the heart of our community," said Basran.

"It's a really exciting time and probably unprecedented in terms of what we're seeing in our downtown core right now."

The boom will continue in the coming years as the city determines the future of the civic block, including redevelopment of the old RCMP detachment plus a potential new community theatre complex and museum.

Come back tomorrow to find out what No. 9 is on our top 10 countdown.

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