City buys lakefront

A view of Okanagan Lake from the property the city has just bought for $12 million. Eventually, it will be turned into a park.

A major new waterfront park is on the horizon for Kelowna following the city’s $12-million purchase of 2.9 acres of lakeside land.

A sandy beach, shallow waters and easy access off Lakeshore Road are among the top attractions of the newly purchased property, located in the Lower Mission immediately south of the existing Bluebird Road beach access.

“With our city growing, our beaches and our waterfront becoming busier and busier all the time, this was an absolutely incredible opportunity that we just couldn’t refuse,” Mayor Colin Basran said Wednesday.

“I think it speaks for itself in terms of where it’s located, the amazing beach that it provides and the recreational opportunities and potential amenity space,” he said. “It’s going to be a legacy for our community for a really long time.”

But it could be several years before the beach opens to the public, as funding for its development will be considered within the context of an infrastructure plan that stretches out to 2030.

“It’ll be up to staff and council, and of course the budget, as to when this park may be developed,” Basran said. There are three old rental homes on the property that will eventually be demolished.

The 2.9-acre acquisition complements existing city-owned waterfront properties in the area. In total, the new park will be 3.6 acres with just over 700 feet of beachfront.

Acquisition of the site was hailed by city officials as a coup for the public as the land was up for sale to anyone and might have been purchased by developers.

“This wasn’t something where the vendors came to the city and said ‘we’d like you to buy it,’” Basran said. “This was an open bid process ... Instead of it having a park and amenities in the future, this could have become a condo building with no access for the public to the lake.”

The asking price was $12.5 million, so the city got it at a somewhat reduced rate. “I’m proud of our staff because they got it under asking price,” said Basran, a former realtor.

Funding for the purchase came from the city’s land reserve and a fund built up by fees paid be developers, so there is no direct impact on taxation.

Annual city surveys show more access to the waterfront is one of the public’s highest priorities. In 2009, the city spent $5.6 million to buy a 3,500-square-metre property to expand Rotary park. The cost was equivalent to $1,600 per square metre.

Although the total dollar value of the latest acquisition of waterfront land is double the 2009 purchase, the cost per square metre is actually less, at $1,022.

The difference is accounted for mainly by the fact there was a significant home on the site of the 2009 purchase, which increased the price, whereas the latest purchase has only three older homes with virtually no value.

If the property had had a modern home, the asking price would likely have been too great for the City of Kelowna to consider, Basran said.

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