In January, the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission (COEDC) launched a multi-tiered digital shout-out to Canadian expatriates in California to attract more people – especially entrepreneurs – back to the Kelowna area.
The response was tremendous: traffic from California has spiked 272%, primarily from Canadian expatriates aged 23 to 50 living in the San Francisco area, home of Silicon Valley.
It is just the latest evidence that Kelowna is striding into an unprecedented growth phase.
With a population topping 194,000, up 8.4% since 2011, Kelowna is reaching mid-city critical mass, and even U.S. developers are taking note.
This month Florida-based North American Development Group, in a venture with B.C. developer Kerkhoff Construction, submitted a proposal for a dual highrise downtown Kelowna condo project that would include the tallest tower between Vancouver and Calgary.
The mixed-use commercial and residential project, if approved by Kelowna council, would add 29-storey and 36-storey towers at the corner of Water and Ellis streets.
Both towers of One Water Street would surpass the 26-storey Skye condo, Kelowna’s current tallest building.
A surge in residential demand over the past two years has increased housing starts 87% in 2017’s first five months compared with the same time a year earlier, with multi-family construction dominating the action, according to the COEDC.
From January to May, 1,644 new homes were started in Kelowna, compared with 878 in the same period of 2016, and 1,274 of the new homes were either condominiums or townhouses. Single-detached starts increased to 378 so far this year, compared with 241 a year earlier.
One telling statistic: more new homes are being built now in Kelowna than in Greater Victoria or any other urban centre outside of the Lower Mainland. In fact, this year Kelowna accounts for 11% of all B.C. housing starts, according to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.