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Queensway site for Tourist Centre?

It would appear city hall has listened to naysayers who voiced their displeasure at the prospect of a large tourism building within City Park.

A new plan, which will be presented to Kelowna City Council Monday, proposes the building be relocated to a waterfront site at the foot of Queensway between Stuart and Kerry parks.

That site is currently a parking lot.

Originally, plans called for construction of a Tourism Kelowna Visitor Centre within City Park fronting Abbott Street near the Cenotaph.

Plans included a visitor centre, office space for Tourism Kelowna, leasable commercial space, a space for community events and programs, public washrooms and parking.

That proposal, part of the draft City Park Concept Plan, met with resistance from the public who did not want to see a large building situated within the park.

In August last year council agreed the building should be scaled down in size to approximately 465 square metres (5,000 sq. ft).

While the visitor centre and washrooms remained, other features such as administration offices, commercial space and additional parking were removed.

In his report, Urban Design Planner, Pat McCormick says residents still showed concern over the potential impact a Visitor Centre of any size would have on the park.

"It is staff's opinion that the proposed size of 465 square metres would not alleviate the concerns of citizens and therefore would not be supported by the public," concluded McCormick.

"Tourism Kelowna must relocate and is confident that the proposed Queensway Avenue site meets the location requirements for a successful Visitor Centre."

McCormick further stated the Queensway site would satisfy Tourism Kelowna's desire for a highly visible downtown location within easy walking distance of the Sails Plaza and the entrance to City Park.

"The facility would enhance this urbanized section of the waterfront walkway which connects many of the city's popular tourist attractions including the Abbott Street Recreation Corridor, City Park, public and commercial piers and Stuart and Waterfront parks," added McCormick.

"Located close to the foot of Bernard Avenue with its many amenities and the iconic 'Spirit of Sail,' the area has significant pedestrian traffic including residents and tourists. The proposed Visitor Centre would help optimize the overall visitor experience by complementing the activities and services that exist in the area today."

A study commissioned by the city of the site indicates that while there may be some environmental contamination as a result of previous industrial uses, any remaining contaminants on site are within allowable limits.

A covenant placed on the site also prohibits development on the site within 15 metres of the shoreline. Discussions would have to take place with the province to have that removed.

In order to utilize the Queensway site the city would be required to obtain permits from the provincial Ministry of Environment.

Preparation of a concept plan for the new site would cost approximately $50,000. It would be paid for through a $10,000 contribution from Tourism Kelowna with the balance coming from the existing budget.

Removal of the building from City Park would also mean revising the City Park Concept Plan.

With removal of the building and associated parking lot, McCormick says the proposed access road through the park could potentially be re-routed with access and egress solely from the Abbott Street/Leon Avenue intersection.

McCormick says the changes would also allow Veendam Way and Gardens to remain untouched.

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