Compared to the economic struggles in other parts of Canada, Kelowna is almost booming.
Construction was up in 2012, development applications were up, developers partnered with the city on joint projects, and there were historic completions, starts and movement on numerous city projects.
“I wouldn’t say booming, but I would say . . . we’re at the non-boom normal,” said city manager Ron Mattiussi with a laugh on Wednesday.
“The city will continue to grow,” he added. “We are a mid-sized city. We have a lot of amenities that are going to still attract people. We have great health facilities, a new heart facility, (and) baby boomers are still retiring. They are still migrating across the country. They have their pensions. They are often attracted to the types of things that we have.”
In 1996, when the last boom tailed off, people still moved to Kelowna and built new houses in the Gallaghers Canyon area, he noted.
“The boom times were extremes that we’re not likely to see again – not in our lifetime.”
The positive news was outlined by Doug Gilchrist, the city’s acting general manager of community sustainability, in the last quarterly report of 2012, officially received by city council this week. Construction totalled $290 million in 2012, a $25-million increase over 2011. During the fourth quarter, activity was up 22 per cent. City staff will process 247 development applications, a six per cent increase over 2011, he said. The city also received 140 subdivision applications. Developers or user groups were also interested in infrastructure investments, partnering 50-50 with the city on $550,000 worth of improvements, including trails and-or playgrounds in Black Mountain, Kettle Valley, Mission Recreation Park and The Ponds development in the Mission.
The city officially opened the new $4-million Parkinson Activity Centre, the replacement for the Water Street Senior Centre, which will be torn down in February to make way for a new Kelowna Yacht Club headquarters, construction of that to start in July.
The promise of continued construction activity was also evident in the $14-million Bernard Avenue revitalization project. Phase 1 from St. Paul to Richter streets was completed and the main downtown street reopened in time for Christmas shopping on Dec. 7, said Gilchrist.
Construction of a storm drainage outfall in Kerry Park started on Monday, with Bernard Avenue roadwork set to start in February and wrap up by June 30, before the busy summer months.
A new $5-million public pier and 95-slip marina will be built off Kerry Park, with old pilings for the existing commercial dock coming out and new pilings going in. The dock and marina will be built by Westcorp Properties Inc. of Edmonton.
The city also completed:
– McKinley Road improvements, including straightening a hazardous curve, widening the road and shoulder, and installing barricades for $458,000.
– New sidewalks on Gordon Drive, Guisachan to Cameron, for $110,000; on Highway 97 near Ambrosi Road; and on Burtch Avenue at Guisachan Place.
– Asphalt overlay on McCarthy and Old Vernon roads.
– Replacement of water and sewer pipes on Lawson Avenue from Richter to Ethel streets for $500,000; replacement of sewers in the lanes north of Sutherland and Burne for $500,000; changed drainage on Enterprise Way to collect oil dripping from vehicles and going into drains for $200,000.
– Replacement of asphalt in Highway 97 medians with landscaping from Cooper to Dilworth for $425,000.
The city-managed Kelowna International Airport completed a new international arrivals hall and customs facility to handle 250 passengers an hour. The airport accommodated 1.4 million passengers during 2012, a 3.6 per cent increase from 2011.
In response to council questions, Gilchrist said Interior Health’s plan to build a new headquarters at the corner of Ellis Street and Doyle Avenue is on track.
A request for qualifications has been issued for construction. Proposals will be requested in early February, a contract will be awarded in April and construction will start in July.
The city received virtually no opposition to borrowing $15 million to expand the Library Parkade and build a new parkade in the Memorial Arena parking lot. That construction will occur at the same time as the new headquarters for Interior Health.