Kelowna council debates building more commercial space while existing units are empty

Mixed-use projects viable?

The overall viability of mixed-use commercial and residential developments was a hot topic of conversation around the Kelowna council table Monday afternoon.

While the discussion initially centered around a specific application on Abbott Street within the South Pandosy urban centre, Coun. Gail Given wondered whether the city is creating spaces that won't be filled in the future.

"I agree across from the park is appropriate, but I am starting to get concerned when I watch projects come to completion, but the commercial spaces aren't being filled," she said.

"Where are we going into the future?"

"The current (COVID-19) situation has created some vulnerabilities for folks in the commercial end of things. But, are we really gaining here by building space that may, or may not be occupied?"

She cited the Ella building on Lawrence that opened in the spring, but has yet to fill its commercial spaces.

Planner Terry Barton did concede mixed-use is a relatively new concept to the city, adding there is risk, but benefits as well.

"It takes a certain type of developer and a certain application to pull off mixed-use," said Barton.

"We are promoting mixed-use and would entertain proposals within urban centres."

In answering whether the Abbott Street area could see more of these types of developments, Barton indicated the neighbourhood is "in play" for these types of proposals.

However, he did indicate those would only include properties within the urban centre boundaries.

"This is a very interesting discussion in the fact we are in the process of updating our Official Community Plan," said Coun. Luke Stack.

"This is an area that could, and should, be debated."

Speaking specifically to the Abbott Street proposal, which would see, if given final approval, three commercial spaces below 24 residential units, Stack said he can't lose sight of the fact the city is getting 24 new residential units with an urban centre.

Most on council also agreed that the specific location, which is directly across from the future Pandosy Waterfront Park, is ideal for commercial enterprises.

The success of The Shores across from Gyro Beach was cited as an example of just how successful these types of projects can be.

Council voted 8-1 to send the proposal to public hearing. Only Coun. Charlie Hodge, who thought the location was all wrong, voted against it.

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