Kelowna City Council gave a resounding thumbs up to plans surrounding two new parkades for the downtown area.
The approval came despite a construction bill which has risen more than $2.3M from the original estimate of $19M.
According to Kevin Van Vliet, Utility and Building Projects Manager, the additional costs are due mainly to geotechnical requirements and an expansion of ground level retail spaces at the Library Parkade.
Van Vliet says a number of options were discussed to keep the budget at its original estimate including reducing the number of parking stalls and office space at the Ellis Parkade, less commercial space below the Library Parkade, however, they were not deemed viable.
Councillor Luke Stack stated the building is an important entrance to the arts district and believes the additional retail space along both Ellis and Smith streets will 'mask the parkade.'
"I think the addition, although it puts us over the budget, is such an important part of the entrance into the Ellis Street corridor. I am really pleased you have expanded to the point of making these retail spaces very viable and usable," says Stack.
"Although the budget is a little higher I think, in the long term, it's the right way to go."
An additional feature of the expanded Library Parkade will be a public art component. Council has approved utilizing $100,000 from the public art fund to go towards that portion of the expansion.
Val Vliet says they are looking at seven pieces of art in spaces between the columns in a window-box format.
"We will ask for Expressions of Interest and qualifications. We will narrow that down to three to five artists and they choose what kind of art would go in those boxes," says Van Vliet.
"We haven't selected a theme. We want to leave that up to the artists and we'll let the panel decide what might be the best fit."
He hopes that process can be concluded by the end of August.
Van Vliet says construction of the Library Parkade expansion is expected to begin this fall with completion in late summer or early fall of next year.
"Ideally we would like to have the Library Parkade built before we take the surface parking out of Ellis. I suspect we will have some overlap," says Van Vliet.
"We expect to do some geotechnical work next summer (2014) or fall and we want to complete that parkade (Ellis) with the same timing as the building Interior Health will be occupying which is looking at the fall of 2015."
In all, about 635 new parking stalls will be added once both parkades are complete.
"We often hear there is not enough parking downtown. This is something we have to do," says Councillor Mohini Singh.
"Let's do it right, let's do it once, let's get it done and let's be proud."
The additional $2.34M for the projects will come from Parking Reserves and not from additional taxation.
Van Vliet says it will be repaid through parking revenues over a five to seven year period.