Occasionally some remarks I make provoke a reaction. (Not as often as you’d think, or I’d sometimes like.) But a speech I made to the Urban Development Institute in Kelowna on March 29th seems to have done the job.
Let’s begin with the coverage in the Daily Courier. Reporter Steve MacNaul basically got it right:
Kelowna on right track
Kelowna has made some inspired decisions – and some wrong turns – as a rapid growth desirable city. “Let’s start with the good stuff,” former City of Vancouver councillor Gordon Price said during a stop in Kelowna.
“You have the assets of natural beauty, good food, good wine and good times. The downtown waterfront redevelopment, cultural district and Bernard Avenue are all things to be proud of.”
Price, who is now director of the City Program at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, spoke at a luncheon at The Grand hotel put on by the Kelowna chapter of the Urban Development Institute.
“But Kelowna has also made some major errors,” Price said.
“The car-based planning of the past has made Highway 97 the worst example of highway strip. Westbank is not well planned. The university (UBCO) on a hill by the airport frankly looks like a business park and you have your street issues downtown (such as homelessness, drug dealing and crime.)”
Price, who is also on the board of the International Centre for Sustainable Cities, characterizes Kelowna as an adolescent city on the cusp of adulthood.
“Make good decisions and go with them,” he urged.
“What is happening in downtown Kelowna is more important right now than whatÕs happening in downtown Vancouver.”
The direction of downtown Vancouver has already been set and is very densely “more natural, more urban and more connected” than ever before, according to Price.
There’s still a lot of development yet to be done in downtown Kelowna, therefore the opportunity to do it right – or wrong – according to Price.
“Bernard Avenue is revitalizing and still has a very pedestrian people scale, which is good,” he said.
“The residential highrises are good because it keeps people downtown and creates a vibrancy. Many people are against highrises, but really height is irrelevant. A highrise done well creates density but provides green space and storefronts at its base to keep people engaged.”
Downtown Kelowna has ‘anchors’ such as Prospera Place arena for sports and concerts, the cultural district for art and plays and non-mall stores, restaurants and services, pointed out Price.
“But a better job could be done of filling in the spaces between these anchors with housing, other facilities, parks and trails,” said Price.
“People will accept growth if they see the public benefits that come along with it.”
Price told the developers present that’s why it’s important to do public consultations before launching a project to outline the public benefits such as parks or unique stores and amenities that go along with it.
“What developers are doing is really selling lifestyle with nature and all the urban amenities to both the people that will buy their homes and the existing neighbourhood,” said Price.
And then came the reaction.