West Kelowna  

Community report states West Kelowna lacks an identity

Transform downtown a must

The West Kelowna couplet has to go if downtown Westbank is to achieve a desired transformation.

That's one of several points raised through the first phase of the city's community vision exercise, #OURWK, which council will review Tuesday evening.

A summary of the report, prepared by Lanarc, takes suggestions from residents on their vision of the future of the city.

One of those suggests the Westbank town centre needs transition from an auto-oriented strip into a walkable, inviting city centre.

"While recent development at the edges has supported more living, the business core continues to see vacancies," says Lanarc OCP consultant Jana Zelenski in her report.

"Westbank Centre is envisioned as a place where people come together and community ideas like a central market, an arts and culture centre, great plaza spaces, and an enhanced civic precinct were suggested to increase activity, employment, and services. A shift to a pedestrian-focused environment will be essential to creating an inviting and animated Westbank Centre.

It's suggested the couplet, a constant cause of frustration among councillors since the city incorporated 12 years ago, "will need to be overcome to support transformational change."

Residents also believed continued improvements to the city's waterfront need to be made over the coming years.

These include a continuous connected waterfront from the William R. Bennett bridge south to Peachland, more services like food and shops, and increased connectivity to other parts of the community.

"Participants envision a more vibrant waterfront area that brings shops, services, and better options for accessing the area without a vehicle.

"However, the community holds a range of opinions about the scale of both commercial and residential development in this area, suggesting further discussions are needed."

There was also a sense from residents that West Kelowna lacks a "vibe" or something to differentiate it from other communities.

"Communities that harness this quality share characteristics like walkable and vibrant downtowns, high-quality buildings, attractive gateways, active waterfronts, and experiences that draw people to them. Many participants felt West Kelowna does not yet have the differentiator it needs," said Zelenski.

Residents also felt the city needs to attract, retain and expand businesses. Presently, the survey suggests West Kelowna is viewed more as a "bedroom community," with a majority of residents leaving the city for work.

"Community discussions indicated that West Kelowna is not known for a strong business district that attracts professional services and the related commercial services that support an active business areas. An existing strength of West Kelowna is its diverse economy and maintaining this balance will be important," she says.

The final round of community engagement into the vision for the city over the next 20 years will begin in early November.

A final report is expected in early February.

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