An alternative vision for downtown Kelowna was presented Thursday by a group whose members say the city’s current plan lacks imagination.
A new community theatre should be built on the City Hall parking lot and a multi-use facility should eventually replace Memorial Arena, says the newly formed Kelowna Legacy Group.
Also, the city’s plan to shortly choose a developer to build a highrise on the former RCMP site should be put on hold, with no decision to be made for at least a year, the group says.
“Do we want another tower in the downtown core?” said group spokesman Philip Whealy at a press conference in the Innovation Centre.
Although the city has recently completed a long-range plan for the so-called civic precinct, Whealy said a new drawing of a grander vision with broader community input is needed.
“It’s time to start thinking big. It’s time to start thinking world class,” Whealy said. “We need to consider all possibilities. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for our community.”
The city is in too much of a “rush” to allow development on the former police station site without considering the property within the context of all municipally owned land around City Hall, the group says. Members include lawyer Paul Mitchell, former chamber of commerce manager Norm LeCavalier, former mayoral candidate Tom Dyas and Okanagan College instructor Laura Thurnheer.
Development ideas suggested in a video released by the group show a new performing arts centre on the parking lot to the north of City Hall, with a rooftop park connected to a new community centre where the current theatre is located. A “mixed-use” development is shown as replacing Memorial Arena, which the city says has a remaining serviceable life of about 20 years.
Other suggestions, presented without much detail, include recreational facilities, community meeting space and housing.
The video shows an 11-storey tower on the site of the former police station, shorter than is currently envisioned by the city. A request for proposals from developers interested in the site closed on Sept. 30, but there is no timetable for staff to select a submission and bring it forward for council’s consideration.
“Let’s pause (that process) and consider this as a holistic area of critical importance,” Whealy said. “Today is just a start. We do not have all the answers, but we do have dreams.”