A pedestrian corridor called the Artwalk, which includes a new civic plaza, will eventually stretch from Queensway to Prospera Place under long-range development plans for the civic precinct approved Monday by council.
The car-free, people-friendly spine between Ellis and Water streets promises to be a “spectacular” and well-used public amenity in the future, Coun. Luke Stack said.
At its southern terminus, city staff say, the Artwalk will feature a “refreshed” plaza around the Bennett Memorial clock and fountain, a 35-year-old public art piece that pays tribute to the two-decade premiership of W.A.C. Bennett, a former Kelowna hardware store owner. No details on the proposed redevelopment of the existing clock were presented to council.
The plan aims to encourage more diverse land uses within the civic centre, where 53 per cent of the properties currently have an institutional zoning, to make the district a more appealing and vibrant area.
“The last thing we want to have is a bunch of civic buildings . . . and nothing taking place at night outside of large events,” Mayor Colin Basran said.
The plan — for the area bounded by Queensway, Cawston, Ellis and Water — envisions 550 new residential suites at market rates, 230 units of affordable housing and 75,000 square feet of new commercial space.
It’s expected the first significant change to the current look of the area will be construction of a residential tower up to 13 storeys on the site of what is now the RCMP detachment on Doyle Avenue.
The RCMP are moving to a new building in 2017, and this year or next the city will issue a request for proposals from developers interested in building on the current police site. The city’s plan is to retain ownership of the site but provide it for the chosen builder in the form of a long-term lease.
Coun. Brad Sieben said he thought the timeline for the RFP was too rushed, and he voted against adopting the civic centre plan. So did Coun. Charlie Hodge, who wanted more time to digest the 200-plus-page report and gauge public response.
But a majority of councillors said the plan had been put together over the past year, with considerable public input and regular updates to council.
“I’m very comfortable with this plan,” Stack said.
The Artwalk currently extends from the Rotary Centre for the Arts to Doyle Avenue. Its extension to Queensway, including a new civic plaza between the library and the courthouse, is foreseen within the next five to 10 years.
Sometime after 10 years, Memorial Arena will likely be demolished and the site used for currently unspecified municipal purposes.
“We know the arena is going to have to come down. It’s 50 years old,” Coun. Maxine DeHart said.
Also in the 10- to 25-year range are plans for a new performing arts centre to replace the Kelowna Community Theatre, new highrise residential towers on what is now the parking lot around Prospera Place, and an expansion of the art gallery.
Despite the ambitious plans, DeHart noted the city has not budgeted any money for any aspect of the plan’s implementation, with those funding deliberations to come later.
“We can’t do anything without the dollars,” DeHart said. “We might be talking about this plan a lot longer than we think.”