Kelowna council anxious to see plans for old Tolko site

Parks, shops for north end

More green space, higher density housing, day-to-day shops and services dominate early conceptual ideas for redevelopment of Kelowna's north end.

But it's the plan for the former Tolko mill site which encompasses the western portion of the north end that has city council intrigued.

Plans for redevelopment of both the north end and the mill site have been underway since the summer of 2021 and, while they are being conducted independently, they will come together once both are complete in the coming months.

Council got its first public look at potential concepts within the north end plan with the first phase of the mill plan expected to come to the table in the coming weeks.

"The mill site is a significant site for the neighbourhood and holds the potential to completely transform the area while at the same time addressing a host of community objectives," planner Aaron Thibeault told council Monday.

"The mill site is expected to be fully integrated into the surrounding neighbourhood and help it become a complete community."

In unveiling three distinct concept plans, Thibeault indicated several similarities which cross all three including a variety of housing types and tenures, waterfront parks and pathway improvements on Manhattan Point, improvements to both Sutherland Bay and Walrod parks, preservation of industrial lands on the southeast portion of the neighbourhood, significant road upgrades and transit improvements to keep pace with anticipated growth over the next 20 years.

While the concept plan contained more generalities than specifics, its was certain specific portions of the plan council questioned.

One of the biggest concerns for Coun. Maxine DeHart is the absence of a grocery store in the north end, something Thibeault says was at the top of neighbourhood requests during the first round of engagement.

"There are certain things we can do as a city to facilitate that...making sure we support the kind of land uses where we could see a grocery store," he said.

"Places like the mill site have also shown an interest to include a variety of uses. We will do what we can to ensure we have those types of uses in the neighbourhood."

Coun. Loyal Woodridge voiced concerns over what he saw as a lack of planned growth in the northeast portion of the area.

"Across the different concepts we do explore different approaches to adding some density to that northeast residential area," said Thibeault comparing it to the type of building going on south of downtown.

"Acknowledging the great development potential that occurs on the mill site, we felt not as much was needed on other existing residential areas."

Thibeault says the preliminary vision for the area is to explore everything from single family homes to low rise apartments while expecting a much higher profile for the mill site.

"Under the north end plan we do talk about some general design guidelines including wanting to step down the height from downtown and also stepping down height from the middle of the mill site east and west as you approach those existing low profile neighbourhoods."

"If the mill site and the (BC) tree fruits site want higher levels of density with higher infrastructure demands, I think it's important that those development teams are prepared to service that adequately," added Wooldridge.

"When it comes to water, when it comes to sewer and transportation, those are big infrastructure deficits that need to be addressed. That's why I believe both plans need to come together before we can make solid decisions."

Thibeault says the city plans to take about a month to get further public engagement on the concept plans before coming back to council with an updated set of concepts in September, about the same time the initial mill plan is ready for council's review.

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