Councillor pans preliminary Tolko mill site redevelopment options

Mill plans 'underwhelming'

"I think they can definitely do better."

That's the message Kelowna city councillor Loyal Wooldridge imparted on developers of the former Tolko Mill site after they briefed council on three preliminary concepts for the 44-acre site.

While each of the three plans unveiled Monday included different visions, they did include many common assumptions such as 3,500 residential units including affordable housing, three to four hectares of parkland, a waterfront walkaway and a large amount of office and retail space.

However, Wooldridge called preliminary concepts for the last jewel to be developed on the city's waterfront, "underwhelming."

"From the beginning my expectation is for the development team to come forward with an astounding, beautiful public access that is going to enhance the quality of life for people in Kelowna," said Wooldridge.

"What I saw today with only about three hectares being dedicated to public open space, much of which is a legislative requirement for riparian areas, is really underwhelming."

"What I saw was a sea of towers, a lot of developable area which means a lot of money for the property owner, but it doesn't necessarily mean improved quality of life."

The councillor says he is hoping to see free, accessible space that creates equity within the community, and not a playground for the elite.

"What I want to see is how can we leverage that for public benefit. That comes with how people can use that space for free and not necessarily private space for people that own luxury condos on the lake.

"We need to continually look out for the quality of life for people in Kelowna and that's what I'm hoping we will see in a revised plan after they go to public engagement."

Wooldridge did acknowledge what the public saw Monday was only a series of concept ideas taken from previous public engagement.

In defence of the concepts, planner Joost Bakker, who was also involved in the redevelopment of the North Vancouver Shipyards and Granville Island, said the goal is to build a "complete community," with housing crossing all parts of the spectrum including affordable housing and units for students and seniors.

Whatever the final plan looks like, Bakker expects the complete build out to take approximately 20 years.

Public consultation will include three open house style events to coincide with those for the north end plan, including a major event scheduled for Oct. 26 at the Laurel Packinghouse.

Online engagement is also planned to run at the same time.

It's expected the engagement process will run through October and into early November after which a final plan will be drawn up and presented to council.

More Kelowna News