Tourism Kelowna is pleased that Kelowna City Council has approved the re-zoning application for a visitor centre at the downtown Queensway Jetty location. Kelowna City Council voted in favour of the re-zoning application following a public hearing and community consultation period that spanned nearly a year.
In the two weeks before the public hearing, Council received 91 letters of support for the project, with upwards of 150 letters of support submitted overall including many representing multiple businesses and staff. At a well-attended public hearing on January 24, 2017, many demonstrated support for the project and 25 residents and individuals representing business and industry groups made presentations to explain why the Queensway Jetty location was the best place to create economic opportunities for local businesses and enhance the waterfront walkway for visitors and residents.
Council heard presentations that explained visitation at highway visitor centres are decreasing, while visitation at visitor centres in high-pedestrian traffic areas are increasing with 78 per cent of North American visitor centres now located downtown in high-volume pedestrian areas. Speakers in support of the project also outlined enhancements the centre will bring to the location including continuation of the waterfront walkway and a building that provides amenities including public washrooms. The centre will feature interpretive panels noting Kelowna’s rich history, be programed year-round, and be available to community groups to rent. In 2016, 23 per cent of current visitor centre users were Kelowna residents.
At the public hearing, and during the community consultation period, Tourism Kelowna heard points from residents who did not support the re-zoning application or suggested other locations and ideas for a new visitor centre.
“We thank those that provided their support for the project, and appreciate the perspectives of those that did not,” said Daniel Bibby, Chair of the Tourism Kelowna Board of Directors. “While we may not be in agreement, we thank those that took time to share feedback and voice their opinion.”
Since the project was first presented in the spring of 2016, Tourism Kelowna changed the project plan based on community feedback including removing the organization’s offices, which resulted in a 40 per cent reduction in square and moving the building entirely off Sawmill Community Trust lands, often referred to as the Simpson Covenant.
The new visitor centre building, which will be constructed mainly of glass and B.C. wood products, is estimated to cost $2.8 million and construction costs will be covered entirely by Tourism Kelowna. The small parcel of land that the centre will be built on will be provided to Tourism Kelowna in a 29-year lease. The building will be set back from the water’s edge by 10 metres on the north and south sides and 15 metres on the west allowing for enhanced public green space. The City of Kelowna will retain ownership of the land, and following the lease it will be returned to the City.
“The tourism industry in Kelowna represents over $140 million in tax revenue each year and provides over 8,300 local jobs,” said Tourism Kelowna President and CEO Nancy Cameron. “A new visitor centre will help enhance visitor experiences, unlock additional spending, and provide a safe and animated space for residents to meet.”
Tourism Kelowna will continue to provide project updates to the community. For information, visit, www.tourismkelowna.com/newvisitorcentre