Westcorp defends hotel

Edmonton-based Westcorp is defending the new design of its proposed downtown Kelowna hotel.

City planning staff are recommending council deny a new development permit and variance permit application for the hotel on the former Willow Inn site.

Staff said the size, height and massing of the newly-designed 33-storey hotel is overwhelming and the visual presence lacked sensitivity for the site.

Westcorp VP of operations Gail Temple says they were told weeks ago the report would be negative.

"That's fine, they're doing their report based on policy," Temple told Castanet News in response to the report.

"Now, it's our job as a developer to bring forth our reasons why those variances should be accepted."

Temple says Westcorp and city staff have worked collaboratively throughout the process. Several changes made have been as a result of conversations with them, such as the street plaza on Queensway, setting back the tower from Kerry Park and widening the laneway.

A 24-storey tower Westcorp proposed for the site was previously approved by council, but the development company has made several changes to their plan since then. 

"The project we came forward with before was one we did not want to move forward with because it was not going to help us realize the vision we had for that property.

"The project we have today we very much like, and there are many, many things about it that are superior to the previous design.

"We have a much softer interface to the lake, we have a far superior conference centre to the one put forward before, we now have better parking for the entire facility. Even the functionality of the hotel ... before we were a hotel wrapped around a very large parkade."

Temple says council really needs to hear from the public and Westcorp, and needs to hear the reasons why the changes have been made.

"It's up to council to determine whether that's what they want on that last piece of waterfront park area," said Temple.

They'll get that chance Feb. 20.

Temple says if council gives it the go ahead, a presentation centre will be built in the summer to sell off the for-sale condos.

If that goes well, she says shovels would be in the ground by the end of the year.

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