Making Friends in Kelowna
Good friends will be honest with you.
‘BAD DEVELOPMENT ON STEROIDS’
Gordon Price, one of B.C.’s leading city experts and a former Vancouver councillor, remembers well his charming childhood trips to Kelowna in the 1950s. There was the city park, the fruit-stands, a good bustle on Bernard Avenue, and the “Fintry Queen” car ferry in the harbour. Ironically, the iconic Fintry Queen just got the boot, to make way for a $5-million private wharf development.
Price says when the municipal government asked him to come to Kelowna to help put through an anchor mixed-use development on Bernard about 20 years ago,* he was stunned by the disjointed and ugly patchwork of parking lots and strip malls. The development failed, with complaints against building height and density.
“I thought Nanaimo would be the worst example of a city being ‘malled’ to death until I went back and saw what happened in Kelowna,” Price said. “And now from what I’ve seen in West Kelowna, it is even worse. It’s bad development on steroids.”
Price says that during the years Kelowna politicians seem to have lacked the will and vision to guide smart development growth, but there is still hope.
Basically, Kelowna needs the type of turnaround that Mayor Dianne Watts and her council have started in Central Surrey. Focus on increasing transit and public infrastructure investment downtown and give developers a vision — more walkable, more dense, buildings more linked in purpose — that they can buy into.
“You have huge potential in Kelowna. There is a reason people go there. Just stop making bad stuff.” …
Back in his Vancouver office, Gordon Price is asked to consider the good and the bad in Kelowna, and prescribe an urban-planning remedy that could help the underperforming city live up to the beauty of its natural surroundings. On his computer he opens up a Google Earth satellite map and literally gasps, taking in all the potential land value and tax-base being wasted in car parks.
It’s exactly like Joni Mitchell said. They paved paradise to put up a parking lot.
“Those lots just suck the life away. They need to fill that in with transit-oriented development,” he says. “They’ve had some good ideas that lacked momentum, and they have a good economy. The important thing is to have the long-term vision and commitment.”
* Not exactly. Just asked to speak on occasion regarding density, downtown development, etc. – lessons from Vancouver.
Here are examples of the fabric in the Kelowna region:
Highway 97 strip