Changing plans on UBC Okanagan downtown Kelowna tower construction

Changing plans on tower

The digging is over at the site of the UBC Okanagan downtown tower, but only because the site's engineers have put a stop to it.

Excavation work at the site of the 43-storey UBC Okanagan building going up on Doyle Avenue has damaged some nearby buildings, forcing the closure of the Legion Hall on Bertram Street and the Okanagan coLab at the corner of St. Paul and Doyle.

As a result of the unintended consequences of digging the deepest hole the city has seen for the building's parkade, UBC has now changed its plans.

“The big challenge has been the parkade, there's no question about that,” said Rob Einarson, UBC Okanagan's Associate Vice-President of Finance & Operations, during the UBC Okanagan senate meeting on Thursday.

“We've been working as hard as we can to try and minimize that. There is a new strategy that the city is accepting that will allow us to modify our parking strategy.”

During the meeting, one UBC Okanagan professor referred to the project as the “downtown disaster,” but Einarson said he'd “stop short of calling it a disaster.”

City of Kelowna Director of Planning and Development Ryan Smith says UBC stopped excavation at the site “based on the advice from their engineers,” despite initial plans to go deeper.

“Obviously some of the settlement issues they were seeing probably triggered that recommendation and UBC wants to make sure none of the properties are further impacted and they don't take unnecessary risks,” Smith said.

“We're working on what that means for parking and those types of things ... We're trying to vet the idea and make sure if the city has any conditions or requirements on the idea, that those get reviewed, and see if our counsel needs to be involved at all in the approval of that, or if that gets done at the staff level.”

Smith says a decision on what the change of plans will look like will be coming in the next couple of weeks.

Einarson told the UBC Okanagan Senate meeting that the changes are not expected to impact the timeline of the project. It's expected to open in the fall of 2027.

He added that the construction project is covered by insurance and that any potential financial consequences of the damage caused to other buildings will not be felt by UBC Okanagan.

“We're hopeful that that is not significant but if there were, that's what the building insurance is available for and it would have no impact on UBC,” Einarson said.

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