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Kelowna visitor centre site revisited

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A pay parking lot at the west end of Queensway in Kelowna could be the site of the city's new tourist information booth.
Converting an old ferry landing point to a new tourist information centre makes perfect sense to acting Kelowna mayor Luke Stack.
Just as ferries once brought newcomers and visitors to the city, a visitor centre provides a welcoming and informative reception to those interested in exploring Kelowna, Stack says.
"I think it's a great site," Stack said Friday, referring to the piece of municipal land at the end of Queensway that's currently used only as a parking lot.
"We listened carefully to the criticism we received when the idea was to put the tourist centre in City Park, and we've responded to that criticism," Stack said.
"So now we're planning on un-paving a parking lot so we can build a little bit of paradise," he said.
The proposed site, to be considered by council on Monday, fits the evolving needs of Tourism Kelowna, says association president Stan Martindale. Tourist centres are generally moving away from highway locations, like the current Kelowna info booth on Highway 97 and Ellis Street, to a prominent downtown location, he says.
"Everybody has a GPS system these days, so people aren't looking for directions to specific attractions anymore," he said. "We're interested in a high-profile site, where there's already a lot of foot traffic.
"When they're visiting Kelowna, people obviously gravitate towards the lake," Martindale said.
"With this site, we'll be able to reach people and tell them more about the orchard tours, farm tours and all other attractions in Kelowna."
On a drizzly, grey Friday morning, some people walking along the Kelowna waterfront also endorsed the proposed new location of a major information centre at the end of Queensway.
"I think that would really help to spruce up this part of the waterfront," said Keegan Edwards, 37.
And Drew McCallum, a visitor from Australia, said: "If this is the heart of downtown, that's probably where a visitor centre should be. It's a nice spot, too, right on the water."
Dallas Gray, president of the Downtown Kelowna Association, said: "We're excited to hear about this proposal. Obviously, we believe the information centre is the kind of facility that should remain downtown."
Last summer, plans to build a new, 15,000-square-foot Tourism Kelowna information centre with some related services in City Park drew a mostly negative public response, with people concerned about the loss of green space.
After looking for alternative locations, city staff and tourism officials settled on the old ferry jetty.
The intention is that the city would construct the building, then lease space back to Tourism Kelowna. However, there is no timetable for construction, as the city has not yet created a budget for the project or secured the hoped-for provincial grants.

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