Proposed hotel

Rather than starting construction next month, Edmonton-based Westcorp will wait until the fall to start building a 24-storey, $65-million hotel on the waterfront in downtown Kelowna.

Gail Temple sees the silver lining.

“We now have more time to get it right,” said the Westcorp vice-president of stakeholder management.

“Maybe this delay is a good thing in some ways. We’re still as excited as ever to see it happen.”

“It” is the 24-storey, $65-million hotel Westcorp plans to build on Kelowna’s downtown waterfront.

After talking about a highrise hotel at the foot of Queensway Avenue beside The Sails sculpture and Kerry Park since 2007, Westcorp received city approval in the summer of 2014.

Initially, a 2015 construction start was discussed before settling on March 2016.

Now, next month’s date has been scrapped in favour of the fall.

The reason is the lakeside plot’s high water table. It starts to rise in the spring and peaks in the summer before receding in the fall.

“We have to dig down four metres for the elevator shaft and two metres for the rest of the building,” said Temple.

“To do that work in the spring and summer would mean way too much dewatering expense.”

The delay means the soonest the hotel can be completed is late 2018 or early 2019 rather than early 2018.

While there will be no construction for at least seven or eight months, site preparation will continue, interior design work will be done and developer Phil Milroy will continue to secure financing.

“Hotels are challenging to finance because they are hotels and there’s lots of equity in them, but we see no issues in getting financing,” said Temple.

“We want to build a stand-alone hotel that we will manage ourselves.”

That means Westcorp isn’t seeking a hotel brand, like Sheraton or Westin, to manage the property.

Westcorp already has four hotels the company manages by itself. They are the Matrix, Varscona and Metterra in Edmonton, and Place Louis Riel in Winnipeg.

The company plans to reveal the name of the Kelowna hotel at the official groundbreaking in the fall.

Temple admitted it was a challenge deciding to go public with the delay because some people may think the project is in trouble.

“In the end, we decided to let everyone know because this is such a much-wanted project in Kelowna,” she said.

“And, we wanted people to know about the water table and that there’s nothing we can do right now.”

The land Westcorp owns includes the Metro Community building at Queensway Avenue and Water Street.

Metro will move out March 1 into a new location and the premises will be demolished, along with the adjacent foundation of the old Willow Inn, to make way for the hotel.

The hotel is touted as a key revitalization piece for downtown.

It won’t just be a tower with 214 lakeview rooms. It will also include a convention centre, restaurant, spa, ground-floor shops and waterfront walkway connecting Kerry and Stuart parks.

Westcorp already built and operates the downtown pier that opened last year and juts into the water in front of where the hotel will go up.

While the hotel is an ambitious project, it’s just a fraction of what Westcorp originally proposed for downtown in 2004 — the $250-million Lawson’s Landing development of several highrise hotels and condominiums.

Since then, other highrise proposals have also come and gone, including Aqua south of the Hotel Eldorado, 24 on Bernard Avenue, Monaco at St. Paul Street and Doyle Avenue, and Lucaya on Sunset Drive, which is now expected to be reborn as the Grace tower.

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