City Park building to be scaled back
Aug 27, 2013 / 5:00 am
You spoke and Kelowna City Council has received the message loud and clear.
A building proposed for City Park that would house, among other things, a Tourism Kelowna visitor centre, will be scaled back.
The structure, expected to be built at the edge of City Park at the foot of Leon Avenue, is part of a planned re-design of the city's signature waterfront park.
The City Park Concept Plan was presented to council Monday afternoon. The presentation included comments provided by members of the public during a series of on-line and open house presentations.
Planning Specialist, Pat McCormick, told council many comments came in opposed to a visitor's centre being located in the park, a perceived loss of green space and increased vehicle traffic in the park as a result of the visitor's centre.
McCormick adds there were several comments opposed to change of any kind within the park, potential moving of Veendam Way and Veendam Gardens and the exclusion of the Kelowna Lawn Bowling Club from the plan altogether.
Most of the responses according to McCormack concerned the visitor's centre.
"In light of responses that we have received and the concern for the location of the Visitor's Services Centre in the park, staff's recommendation today is to work with Tourism Kelowna with the goal of downsizing the Visitor's Service Centre and to mitigate the impact of the building on City Park," says McCormick.
"Pending the outcome of that discussion we would come back to council with a revised concept plan. The downscaling of the building could result in other refinements to the plan but we wouldn't know what those would be until we held the discussion with Tourism Kelowna."
Councillors took turns weighing in on the plan, in particular, the Tourism Kelowna pavilion.
Their opinions varied from a smaller building to a kiosk similar to what the Downtown Kelowna Association uses in front of Kerry Park.
"The 5,000 or 6,000 square foot footprint is what they actually need. The offices can be offsite as well," says Councillor Andre Blanleil.
"But, I still passionately feel the right place to be when it comes to having your tourists come is in your downtown. Their job is to extend people's stay and with the amount of traffic with the pier going downtown and the great stuff we have done with Bernard Avenue there's a lot of walking traffic that is now downtown that hasn't been there for years."
Blanleil says he believes the place for a tourist information centre is in the park.
"We asked staff to go out there and get feedback on that idea (tourist centre in the park) and the feedback hasn't been good. The people don't seem to like what we are proposing," says Councillor Luke Stack.
"I do think a kiosk of some sort would be really helpful. I agree too, I've lost my enthusiasm for that big of a building but I do know the DKA kiosk is swarmed by tourists - they're giving out thousands and thousands of brochures in the summer."
Stack says there clearly is the need for something in the park.
"Hopefully, a safe washroom, a rejuvenation of the Leon/Lawrence corridor. I think these are some of the great ideas that are coming out of this plan."
Stack says tourist centre needs to be tweaked and while looking for other improvements the public can buy into.
"Pat, I think you guys did a fantastic job and it's too bad the good work you did got lost in the size of this building," added Councillor Gerry Zimmermann.
"That to me is the major issue. It's not your concept plan, it's whether we put that building there or not. The public has spoken in my opinion and I believe, like Councillor Blanleil, that it should be downtown I'm just not convinced it needs to be in the park."
Councillor Robert Hobson says his issue with the visitor's centre is the space required to do it right.
"I agree with Councillor Blanleil that I would like to see a tourist presence on the edge of the park, I think that's a positive thing. I also agree that it should be a pedestrian oriented thing and not a destination tourist centre where you would direct the traffic off Highway 97 to come with their vehicles" says Hobson.
"I think public sentiment is against a really large facility and against a lot of parking. I don't think we can deliver enough space on that location for the kind of facility we envisioned."
Hobson says he would like space for a small facility, primarily pedestrian oriented and look for a space on the highway for vehicle traffic.
"Here's a radical idea, why not use the existing site, move the Chamber of Commerce somewhere else and have that whole site used as a tourism building."
Hobson also voiced concerns about the location of a proposed roadway through the park that would enter off Leon Avenue exit at Lawrence.
"I know that creates a loop and some councillors are passionate about that - but I've heard from folks that that's not desirable," says Hobson who would prefer looped traffic enter and exit the park from the current entrance at Lawrence Avenue.
Council did remind the public that the plan is only a future concept plan, one that will be years in the making that and, at the present time, there is no budget.
As for the fact the Kelowna Lawn Bowling Club is not included in the current iteration of the plan.
"By throwing that out there and saying what if there was no lawn bowling which, I think from the staff standpoint was the right thing because with their very limited membership, in a very high profile piece of the park, one could say do they really deserve that piece of land for a private club with a private building," stated Mayor Walter Gray.
"We are in no way kicking them out but we are, I hope, alerting them to the fact they have to drive membership and deserve a place in the park."
Gray says the message should be the club needs to work at increasing membership and not that they are being kicked out of the park.
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