Ella breaks ground

Ground was officially broken on the latest highrise in downtown Kelowna Tuesday morning.

Once complete, Ella will be a 20-storey mixed-use building at the corner of Ellis and Lawrence, featuring ground level businesses and 116 condominiums.

It'll also be the first concrete highrise south of Doyle Avenue since the 12-storey Executive House at Richter and Leon was completed in 1980.

Mission Group purchased the Ella property for more than $2.6 million from the city in February of last year.

Company VP of development Luke Turri says it was the city's vision that prompted Mission Group to make the purchase.

Mayor Colin Basran explains.

"Council put some parameters around some of the things we'd like to see on this site. We said mixed-use, a mix of some commercial or business and some residential," said Basran.

"We know having people living downtown is going to help create the vibrancy we need. It has a number of positive impacts, including the people living downtown, shopping in local businesses and helping the local economy."

The mayor says developments like this in the downtown area and similar ones in other designated town centres are key to Kelowna's continued growth up, and not out.

"We know if we continue to sprawl in the community it's going to be very expensive  to run infrastructure, to run services out there, to police, fire department, parks, amenities.

"So, the further we sprawl the more expensive it gets as a ratepayer in the community. We want to make sure we grow smartly and in areas where we already have amenities to limit the cost."

Turri adds money the city has invested in infrastructure such as Bernard Avenue revitalization, Stuart Park and the yacht club helped spark projects such as this, and more are coming down the pipe.

"We really feel that public investment led to private investment which is now coming to fruition with projects like Ella which is something that, quite frankly, wouldn't be something we would have entertained 10 years ago," said Turri.

"I think that's a testament to the work the city has done but also local businesses and entrepreneurs to make downtown that vibrant place people want to live now."

Actual construction will begin later this month with completion expected in early 2020.

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