It’s rarefied air up here at 205 feet above downtown Kelowna.

“This is a first for most of us,” said Mission Group co-CEO Randy Shier.

“This is the first time I’ve seen this view, too.”

Shier is helping lead a group of media onto the rooftop of the under-construction, 20-storey Ella condominium tower at the corner of Ellis Street and Lawrence Avenue (thus the Ella name).

The occasion is the topping off ceremony for the 116-unit highrise.

The ritual is symbolic of the concrete portion of the building being finished and construction entering the home stretch to finish the interiors.

Construction started on Ella in February of last year and will be ready for owners to move in in February 2020.

The topping off was made official with the huge construction crane delivering an oversized bucket of wet concrete to be poured into the final housekeeping pad on the roof.

When dry, the pad will be a perch for boiler and air conditioning units.

While media, executives from developer Mission Group and general contractor ITC paid attention to the concrete pour, everyone also spent a lot of time soaking in the incredible views.

With the sun out and the wind calm, the panoramas were at their best, highlighting downtown, Okanagan Lake, the Bennett Bridge and mountains.

“As with any highrise, it really is all about the views,” said Mission Group executive vice-president Luke Turri.

“Because the parkade takes up the first five storeys, every condominium from floor six to 20 has views. Of course, you’ll pay a premium for lake views and the higher up you go.”

Eighty-five per cent of the 116 condos are already sold and the price of remaining, select lake view two-bedroom units start at $670,000.

“Ella is targeting downsizing empty nesters who want a view, so the units are larger,” said Turri.

“We really are making our mark on Kelowna’s skyline. Just off the Bernard Avenue corridor, this is the place to be.”

Ella is the city’s 15th highrise, but the first downtown highrise south of Bernard Avenue, so it sticks out.

Most of downtown’s towers are clustered a little farther north near the lakefront on Sunset Drive, Water Street and Ellis Street.

Mission Group is building three more condo towers on Bernard Avenue between St. Paul and Bertram streets.

The foundation of the first highrise, 25-storey Brooklyn, is being put in right now and completion expected to be mid-2021.

Both the Ella and Brooklyn towers will be what’s called mixed use with stores on the ground floor.

Although the real estate market has softened since construction started on Ella, Turri said the tower will sell out because Kelowna’s future is bright and the condos are in “the right building at the right price.”

Rents continue to rise

Despite a softening in Kelowna’s ownership real estate market, apartment rents in the city are on the rise.

The latest report from apartment search platform PadMapper.com shows the average monthly rent for a two-bedroom unit in the city is up 12.7% over the last 12 months and 10.3% for a one-bedroom.

Last month, the average rent for a two-bedroom was $1,780, making Kelowna the fourth most expensive city in Canada behind Vancouver at $3,200, Toronto with $2,850 and Burnaby at $2,320.

The most affordable cities to rent a two-bedroom are St. John’s at $890 and Quebec City with $930.

In June, the average rent for a one-bedroom was $1,280, making Kelowna the seventh most expensive city in the country behind Toronto at $2,290, Vancouver with $2,200, Burnaby at $1,570, Barrie with $1,450, Montreal at $1,430 and Victoria with $1,390.

The cheapest places to rent a one-bedroom are Windsor at $820 and Quebec City and St. John’s at $810 each.

Cannabis bosses on top-50 list

In keeping with Kelowna’s status as a legal cannabis hub, three executives from local marijuana companies have made the 2019 top-50 most influential canna chiefs list.

CannaChiefs.ca is a legal pot news site and consulting firm that helps cannabis bosses (chiefs) with professional development, public relations and setting up speaking engagements.

At No. 40 on the list is Vinay Tolia, the CEO of Flowr, the company that’s growing marijuana in warehouses, greenhouses and fields in Lake Country.

Tyler Robson, CEO of Valens GroWorks in Kelowna, was ranked No. 43.

Valens is a cannabis extraction, processing and packaging company.

Just making the list at No. 50 is Joel Sherlock, chairman of Kelowna-based Vitalis Extraction Technologies. Vitalis makes industrial-sized equipment that uses carbon dioxide to efficiently extract cannabis oil from the plant. Its equipment is sold worldwide to processors.

Sherlock is also co-founder of Doventi Capital and Sherlock & Associate Realty.

Topping the list was Chuck Rifici, CEO of Vancouver-based Auxly Cannabis Group.

Transit can only do so much: chamber

You can’t put a log on a bus.

The Kelowna Chamber of Commerce is making that point to the provincial government in an effort to prompt action on a second bridge over Okanagan Lake, some highway bypass routes and highway upgrades on 97 from the Canada-U.S. border to the Trans-Canada Highway.

The chamber applauds the City of Kelowna for promoting walking, transit, cycling and scootering to ease the transportation crunch.

Thus, the quip that you can’t put a log on a bus. Such alternative modes of transportation don’t help industrial users who need to get their goods from point A to point B on highways quickly and efficiently.

The Kelowna chamber had such a resolution passed at the recent B.C. Chamber of Commerce annual general meeting.

The chamber brought it up again when representatives from 11 chambers in the Thompson and Okanagan and the B.C. chamber met in Kelowna with provincial government representatives for regional consultation.

“This new format — engaging face-to-face with deputy ministers and senior staff — and enabling immediate feedback, created a meaty, substantive, intense day that moved the dial on a wide range of issues,” said Kelowna chamber executive director Dan Rogers.

The Kelowna chamber, and other chambers, are also calling for an end to the real estate speculation tax and a better recycling policy that includes reverse vending machines that take bottles and cans and issue the deposit refund.

Steve MacNaull is a reporter at The Daily Courier. Email: steve.macnaull@ok.bc.ca.