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Central Green must dumb down environmental and housing targets; report

Friday, October 2nd, 2009 | 6:00 am

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The old Kelowna Secondary School site where the city wants to build the Central Green project is currently a huge empty lot used mostly for snow storage. (Photo Adrian Nieoczym)

The old Kelowna Secondary School site where the city wants to build the Central Green project is currently a huge empty lot used mostly for snow storage. (Photo Adrian Nieoczym)

By Adrian Nieoczym

Kelowna city council needs to scale back its environmental and social housing expectations in order to make its vision for a model neighbourh0od on the Kelowna Secondary School site economically feasible, says a new report delivered to council.

If completed, the Central Green project would transform thirteen acres at the corner of Harvey Avenue and Richter Street into a what is hoped to be a vibrant mix of commercial and residential development surrounding a five-acre park.

The concept plan approved by council a year ago calls for every building on the site to achieve a minimum standard of LEED Gold and to have 20 per cent of the residential units set aside as affordable housing.

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design or LEED rating system has become the most widely recognized way of measuring a development’s environmental sustainability. LEED Gold is the second highest of four ratings.

The report prepared by city’s strategic land development manager Derek Edstrom, recommends requiring only the lowest rating, called LEED Certified. It also recommends lowering the affordable housing requirement to 15 per cent of residential units.

The city wants to sell off parcels of the site to developers who would then build on them while adhering to council’s concept plan, which was developed through a series of public meetings and consultations.

But according to the report, the more requirements the city imposes on developers who buy the land, the less they will be willing to pay for it, because of their increased building costs. And the cost of the LEED Gold and 20 per cent affordable housing requirements “would be greater than the value of the land itself and would therefore not produce any economic return” once it was sold, it says.

The city is using a “multiple bottom line” approach for assessing what should be built on the Central Green site. Proposals are evaluated by calculating not only economic impacts, but also environmental, social and cultural impacts.

Even if council reduces its LEED and affordable housing requirements, the project will still become a “leader in sustainable design” and provide a working model for other communities to follow, says Edstrom’s report.

The plan would still call for forty per cent of the site’s land to become a community park with pedestrian networks, gathering places and gardens. And while most of the buildings would only have to be LEED Certified, one demonstration building would be constructed to the highest rating, LEED Platinum. The site in its entirety, meanwhile, would strive to meet the LEED Neighbourhood Gold rating.

As envisioned, Central Green would have a definite anti-car aura to it, with on-site bus rapid transit, reduced parking requirements and a mantra of “no vehicles visible.”

The plan also calls for the promotion of renewable energy, measures to reduce water use, the use of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design Principles and for the project “to be branded a leader in sustainable mixed-use developments.”

Council will take up Edstrom’s report at its public meeting Monday afternoon.

adrian@kelowna.com

250-575-3517

An artist's rendetion of the Central Green project. (City of Kelowna website)

An artist's rendetion of the Central Green project. (City of Kelowna website)

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3 Responses to “Central Green must dumb down environmental and housing targets; report”

  1. John Zeger says:
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    So what else is new? The City is always compromising away its social and environmental goals in order to spur growth and development and the lackeys in the city administration, particularly in the Community Development and Real Estate division, are the worst of the bunch.

  2. Phil says:
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    I am not half surprised this had to happen… When i first saw the designs I was blown away by this beautiful and really well thought through neighbourhood. Naturally my reaction was …. when is the other shoe going to drop?

  3. Brandon says:
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    Agreed. Predictable. When will Kelowna step up and act as much of a leader in development as we pretend to be? These conservative values will never allow change for the better or for the future, what are we leaving our children? Oh sorry, that has nothing to do with the hedonistic “right now”, why should we care?

    Please continue discussion on the forum: link

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