Pier-ing into downtown's future
Sep 27, 2013 / 4:00 pm
With the snip of a ribbon and the ring of a bell the latest jewel in Kelowna's revamped downtown officially opened.
Mayor Walter Gray and Westcorp owner Phil Milroy did the honours Friday afternoon opening the city's $5M public pier.
Construction of the pier and the adjoining marina was awarded to Milroy's company Westcorp two years ago.
Westcorp will own and operate the facility for 20 years.
The project includes a main floating pier for public pedestrian use with 68 hourly and day use pleasure boat slips, boat rentals and a separate commercial pier to accommodate seven commercial boats.
The pier will be able to house more than 60 boats for day moorage and boat rentals.
Westcorp will not be commencing marina operations this year and starting this weekend, moorage will be free of charge on a first-come first-served basis throughout the fall.
The marina will be open from early morning to dusk when the security gate will be closed. The commercial pier operations are still on going, but will finish in October and close for the season. Pay-as-you-park and fuel operations will not begin until next spring.
Originally, the pier was slated to open in June, however, that time line was pushed back on several occasions due to a number of factors.
Milroy says it's a little disappointing to open now but believes, in the end, they got it right.
"It would have been better (to open) at the beginning of the season but it boiled down to either compromising on the quality or holding true to the quality and vision and taking our time to get it right," says Milroy.
"It will be here for a long, long time and I'm glad we held true to our vision. I'm very pleased with how it turned out."
Milroy, who has been an aggressive proponent of developing in the downtown core of Kelowna calls the Okanagan Valley one of the most amazing pieces of property in the world and "the sweet spot of the Okanagan is the Sails Plaza."
He says it's amazing that his company was able to construct a public amenity that opens up to that plaza.
Gray told about 100 assembled guests on the pier for the opening the city is one its way to creating a unique downtown.
"A downtown where you see people say more often, let's go downtown. Where more residents say I want to live downtown," says Gray.
"And when, most important, you hear businesses say downtown is a great place to be."
Gray says the pier is just one piece of that puzzle along with the redesign of Bernard Avenue, expansion of Stuart Park and construction of the new Kelowna Yacht Club.
"This is a huge step into the future and, as many speakers said today it's long overdue," says Gray.
While the pier is the first project Milroy and Westcorp have been associated with in downtown Kelowna it won't be the last.
Westcorp owns the former Willow Inn site and property adjacent to it with an eye on building a major hotel property.
While he wouldn't comment specifically on it, Milroy did say he expects something to come before council within the next couple of months.
Gray says he believes linking the pier with the hotel will bring more public acceptance to a hotel project.
"The public's main concern I think with development in downtown Kelowna is they didn't want big highrise buildings on the lakeshore," says Gray.
"The Willow Inn is across from the lakeshore. Any plans they have will in no way affect or diminish the size of Kerry Park, in fact, Kerry Park will be enhanced."
Sept 27, 2013 - Pier Opening
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