Downtown hotel, what's in a name

Ten years after it was vacated and eight years after its demolition, a hotel will once again rise up on the site of the old Willow Inn.

Westcorp Inc. jumped its final hurdle Tuesday when City Council unanimously voted to issue a development permit for construction of a 24-storey hotel on the site.

The Willow Inn was a fixture at the corner of Mill Street and Queensway Avenue near Kelowna's waterfront, since it was constructed in 1928.

It was purchased by Phil Milroy and Westcorp in the mid 2000's, shut down in September of 2007 and demolished in February of 2009.

Next up for the company is receipt of a building permit which is expected sometime next year, and construction is expected to be concluded sometime in the spring or fall of 2017.

While the company works at producing detailed plans, company vice-president Gail Temple says they will also be hard at work coming up with a name for the new hotel.

Will that name pay homage to the former hotel?

"It absolutely is. That's what it has been since 1928 so you never know," says Temple, when asked if the name Willow is still on the table.

"History is always a really great part of the story and even if we don't have anything in the name that harkens back to its history, we will absolutely be recognizing its history in various places inside the hotel."

Temple says the company looks forward to moving into that phase of naming the hotel and believes it will have a name by the time a building permit is issued.

As for whether the public will have a chance for input, Temple says she's not sure, but believes it would make for an interesting exercise.

"Just the same way people were so emotionally invested in that site because of where it is in our city and where it is on the waterfront, that would be a really interesting thing to involve the public with," says Temple.

While the name may not reflect the past, Temple reiterated there are opportunities within the new hotel to pay tribute to the former name.

During its time, the Willow Inn was as well know as a meeting place at its barber shop and coffee shop, and as a drinking establishment at its strip bar, as it was as a hotel.


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