New grocery site

A new grocery store could open on the former site of a building supply store on Ellis Street in downtown Kelowna pending council's approval of a rezoning application later this month.

Downtown Kelowna could get a second grocery store with the planned conversion of an industrial site into retail and residential uses.

The former site of OK Builders Supply on Ellis Street in the downtown north end has been vacant since the business shut down early last year.

New property owner Don Pham hopes to win city council approval Jan. 21 to change the zoning from industrial to commercial, to facilitate a major redevelopment of the site.

“The first thing we’d like to do is open a new grocery store there by renovating one of the existing buildings,” Pham, who bought the property at 1095 Ellis St. last April for $5.3 million, said Wednesday.

Longer-range plans for the site include other commercial premises as well as a future highrise.

Municipal planners support the zoning change, saying it reflects the transitioning nature of the downtown north end. Under the official community plan, the Ellis Street property is designated as being appropriate for a mix of commercial and residential uses.

The C-7 zoning being sought by Pham for the property would allow for future residential buildings of up to seven storeys and a broad range of retail, financial, entertainment and government uses.

In the immediate vicinity are new highrises either completed or under construction, a number of pubs and restaurants, and hundreds of new condos and rental apartments.

But some new industrial businesses have also recently been built nearby, such as a works centre for Telus and a self-storage building.

As with any rezoning, interested members of the public can comment on the proposed rezoning of the former OK Builders Supply premises at the Jan. 21 meeting.

Pham has owned the Oriental Supermarket, and two Kelowna restaurants, since the mid-1990s. The intention is to keep the highway grocery store open as well as launch the new downtown location.

The highway store, in business since 1995, has a decided international flavour, with products from around the world. But Pham says the proposed downtown location will be more like a traditional grocery store.

“It’ll be handy for all the people who work downtown and the increasing number of people who live there,” said Keith Funk of New Town Services, the planning company working for Pham.

The only existing grocery store downtown is the long-established Safeway at the corner of Bernard Avenue and Richter Street. Nester’s Market, which operated at the corner of Gordon Drive and Bernard Avenue, closed last year.