Improved artist rendering for Central Green project

This vision of a new five-storey building for Central Green struck city council members as much more appealing than the one considered in early January, when approval for the project was deferred.

Same plan, better presentation, different result.

A five-storey, 108-suite building proposed for Central Green in Kelowna was approved Monday by city council, a month after councillors described the design as uninspiring and disappointing.

Architect Jim Meiklejohn told council the design was virtually identical to the original one, but with some “incredibly subtle” tweaks. Such modifications, he said, included changes to brick features and grey instead of white vinyl windows.

The main difference from the earlier presentation, he said, was that the artist drawings were more vivid and accurate.

“It is the same building,” Meiklejohn said. “It’s just rendered a whole heck of a lot better.”

Aside from what they described as the building’s bland appearance when they deferred a decision in early January on whether to approve it, councillors were also concerned about the modest height of the latest structure in Central Green’s build-out.

Original plans for Central Green, developed after a long community consultation process, showed highrise towers of up to 20 storeys and more open space at ground level.

But the developer says soil conditions and building constraints make such tall towers unfeasible, and in any event the city never set any minimum building heights when it opened Central Green for development.

As he has before, Coun. Charlie Hodge criticized the elimination of the towers from Central Green’s plans, and their replacement with several low-rise structures.

“We have a whole bunch of five- and six-storey buildings on this site,” Hodge said. “I feel we have failed the public process.”

Other councillors, however, were quick to point out that — except for the height revisions — all other city-set goals associated with Central Green were being achieved.

These objectives included 15 per cent of the units being offered at below-market rents, the use of environmentally friendly building strategies, 500-plus new homes to help revitalize downtown, a public plaza, a large public park and some retail components.

“There were multiple objectives with Central Green,” said Coun. Luke Stack, adding he was OK with the collection of low-rise buildings now taking shape on the site at the southwest corner of Richter Street and Harvey Avenue.

“What are we losing without the height? The answer is nothing,” said Mayor Colin Basran. “We get so many positives as a result.”

“Yeah, it’s not up. But we are getting our density,” said Coun. Maxine DeHart.

Basran, Stack, DeHart and councillors Gail Given, Brad Sieben, Mohini Singh and Tracy Gray voted to approve the latest building. Hodge and Coun. Ryan Donn were opposed.

With council’s approval of the five-storey, 108-suite building, only one development parcel within Central Green remains.

Council has been told another five- or six-storey building is most likely to be proposed for that parcel, which is immediately south along Harvey Avenue.