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Kelowna takes building boom to next level

Building permits average $200 million a month and housing sales are up 253 per cent from 2020 as Okanagan city shifts into development overdrive

A rooftop capping-off ceremony this June 30 of a 23-storey commercial tower is the latest evidence that Kelowna is in the midst of a barnburner year.

In January, building permit values, which are normally about $50 million, spiked to $114 million. By the end of the first quarter, permits were up 423 per cent from a year earlier and the entire city had awoken to what is happening.

As the pandemic hammered most of B.C. during 2020, it sparked a movement of money and people out Metro Vancouver. Kelowna, the third-largest city in B.C. outside of the Lower Mainland, has proven a prime destination.

The BC Real Estate Association reports that housing sales in the Central Okanagan, anchored by Kelowna, were up 253 per cent through the first four months of 2021 compared to a year ago, with average prices up 29.4 per cent to $517,173.

This help trigger a residential and commercial building boom that shows no sign of slowing. In May, among 218 Kelowna permits approved, local developer Ironclad Developments was issued a $7.8 million permit for a new apartment project and retail giant Costco received a $16.5 million building permit.

As of June the latest Kelowna projects were grabbing headlines.

• The June 30 ceremony capped off the 23-storey Landmark 7 office and retail tower, which will have 224,000 square feet of commercial space when Stober Construction completes it next year.

• Kelowna city council granted final approval for Movala, a massive new mixed-use residential waterfront community by Stober Group, a local developer.

The project is situated in the middle of Kelowna’s Lower Mission neighbourhood between Gyro Beach Park and Pandosy Village. It includes two buildings with a combined 345 homes within 10- and 14-storey towers on top of a podium. The street level involves townhouse units and 22,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space. Plans also include a business centre with work hubs, golf simulator, fitness centre and yoga studio, library, coffee bar, outdoor pool, hot tub and a cabana beach club.

“This is an exciting time for our company. After many years of owning the land and careful consultation we look forward to building this significant residential community” said Dave McAnerney, CEO of Stober Group. “This is a showcase project for our company.”

• The presentation and sales centre opened in June for the first phase of the three-tower Water Street by the Park, which will eventually include the tallest residential towers between the Lower Mainland and Calgary. The first tower, with 156 units, offers one- to three-bedroom condos priced from around $359,000, according to developer Orchard Park Properties. A sellout is possible. The Water Street marketing team said 9,000 registrations have been received from buyers for the total of 650 units that will be built. They added that 70 per cent of registrations are from B.C., 16 per cent from Alberta and 10 per cent from Ontario.

• Mission Group, Kelowna’s largest developer, and HM Commercial announced that all but one retail space had been leased at Phase 1 of its Ella and Bernard Block mixed-use projects in downtown Kelowna. Two more towers are planned in the Bernard Block master plan, which will total more than 100,000 square feet of new commercial space.

There are also huge land deals being put together, primarily for residential development.

These include a 90-acre site on McKenzie Road, Kelowna, - where up to 277 homes with “spectacular city and lake views” could be developed once the land is rezoned to confirm to the official community plan – offered for sale in June at $27.7 million; and 142 acres on Huckleberry Road, Kelowna, with subdivision potential, listed by Re/Max Kelowna at $4.5 million.

See the complete Thompson Okanagan report in the July issue of Western Investor.