coLab wants answers and solution after building forced to close due to construction

Cracks from construction

More businesses have been impacted by construction of the new UBC Okanagan downtown campus building.

Cracks were detected in a building at 1405 St. Paul on Nov. 25, and since that time the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 26 on Bertram Street has also been forced to close its doors due to ongoing impacts from the UBC Okanagan development next door.

The 43-storey tower planned for 550 Doyle Avenue includes a four-storey underground parkade, a first for Kelowna that requires a large excavation.

In a previous statement to Castanet, UBC Okanagan spokesperson Nathan Skolski has indicated they have been in close contact with impacted neighbours.

One of those businesses impacted is Okanagan coLab at 1405 St. Paul Street, located across Doyle from the construction project. Okanagan coLab is a coworking space that's been in operation since 2011, serving as a "hub for creators, entrepreneurs, and changemakers," says coLab owner and operator Shane Austin.

The 12,000 square-foot space has been closed indefinitely while they deal with the impacts from the nearby construction.

Austin says the abrupt closure has led to "substantial revenue losses and exacerbated prior financial setbacks," as their largest tenants have now relocated.

The closure has also resulted in some of his active members not being able to access equipment critical for their businesses since the end of November.

"There is currently no known date for access to the equipment provided by building owners Kerkhoff Construction, despite conversations with UBC Properties Trust representatives," says Austin.

The closure has forced 12 businesses to relocate and Austin says there are also two schools for youth in the building which have been unable to conduct classes.

"Several nonprofits conduct meetings and run programs from our space, affecting the productivity, operations and continuity of numerous enterprises and community-driven initiatives relying on coLab's unique environment for growth and collaboration," Austin says.

In a survey conducted by coLab, 76 per cent of respondents encountered productivity challenges, while 35 per cent experienced disruptions in programming and events. Another 41 per cent say they have incurred financial losses.

"These statistics underscore the struggles faced by members post-closure, emphasizing the urgent need for tailored support and solutions during this challenging period," Austin says.

One of coLab’s members, Dustyn Baulkham, says his business Rebellious Unicorns has been hit hard by the forced closure.

"It's crucial that UBC and the property owner recognize the severity of this issue and respond with all urgency," Baulkham says.

Austin says he is still working with all of the parties involved on a solution.

"While finding resolution may be challenging, coLab is dedicated to taking swift steps toward finding a solution. We are determined to facilitate a transition back to continuity, working with the support of all involved parties."

City of Kelowna risk manager Lance Kayfish is away from the office until the new year, but in an interview back on Dec. 6, Kayfish told Castanet his department is in constant contact with the construction project team and they receive regular updates as to what they observe and encounter.

"We told them we need to see an assessment by a structural engineer before the building is occupied. That work is underway," Kayfish says.

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