City Gardens development now valued at between $160 million and $180 million

Some demographics targeted include downtown workers, hospital staff, young families and retirees. Added density — up to 1,000 new residents for downtown are expected — means the project will cost more. An online public engagement session will be held on March 29, from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. Register for the session at kelsondowntownproject.ca.

Revised plans for Kelson Group’s City Gardens project in downtown Kamloops are estimated to be worth between $160 and $180 million upon completion in the coming years and will be the largest multi-family development in the history of Kamloops.

It will also be the company’s largest undertaking and is expected to add between 700 and 1,000 residents to the downtown core. The entire development is expected to take about a decade to complete.

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“Kamloops is our hometown and this is just a great opportunity for us to build a fantastic complex for the city, and we think that the amount of interest in people living in a more dense urban environment is increasing — and we just think that the real estate market is now ready for this,” Kelson Group president Jason Fawcett said.

On Thursday (March 25), Kelson Group released the revised development plans, which include additional units, the scrapping of a planned partial closure of Nicola Street, new tower design and added retail space.

Fawcett said density of the housing complex south of Battle Street between Fourth and Fifth avenues has increased , to 500 from 400 units. Most of the additional 100 units will be in four storeys of apartment buildings added above townhouse buildings on Fourth and Fifth avenues. Fawcett said the development had capacity for the added apartments and it was felt there would be sufficient demand. In addition, he said it would help to spread out costs.

While it is too early to say how many units will be for sale and rent, Fawcett estimated that two-thirds of the units will be for sale and the remainder will be owned and rented out by Kelson Group. Studio apartments will be more affordable, but larger apartments, such as two-bedroom and den and three-bedroom, will be at the higher end of the market, Fawcett said.

Some demographics targeted include downtown workers, hospital staff, young families and retirees. Fawcett said added density means the project will cost more. The original proposal — detailed in September 2020 — was valued at $140 million. The revised plans mean the development will cost between $160 million and $180 million.

Initial plans also included partial closure of Nicola Street, which was intended to increase walkability. Fawcett, however, said neighbourhood residents, during initial consultation, expressed concerns about access and traffic flow. In addition, he said servicing posed costly challenges.

“With the revised design, we just think keeping it open will be better for the community and the development in general,” Fawcett said, adding that keeping it open will allow people to park on Nicola Street, bike and move through the area more effectively. He said it will also improve building access, as opposed to access from a cul-de-sac.

Design of two towers in the plan has also changed. Fawcett said the 22- and 18-storey buildings — which would be the highest in Kamloops — will no longer be at a 45-degree angle to the street, but slightly offset. In addition, the colour of the towers has changed to a more vibrant and bright look, with wavy features throughout. The new plans include retail space at the bottom of the towers, earmarked for a coffeeshop/restaurant and small grocery store/deli.

The area planned for redevelopment includes some houses that date back more than a century. A historian has suggested incorporating some of the homes into the project, such as for community amenities. Fawcett said the company has heard from some in the community concern about the fate of the old homes. He said Kelson Group is also concerned and is looking at options to preserve the past. The houses, he said, are not in good shape and their location makes it difficult to keep them.

Fawcett said the company is willing to pay up to $50,000 to help someone relocate one or two of the homes. In addition, the company is proposing a gazebo be built next to one of the towers to display memories of downtown, including housing. The idea would be to salvage some materials from the old houses to preserve and display in the gazebo area.

“We’re in early days right now of having some discussions with the City of Kamloops and the museum and other people interested in the heritage to see how we can properly build this gazebo area, but we’re looking for input on that process,” Fawcett said.

Kelson Group is hoping to apply for a development permit in April, start condo presales this fall and begin construction on the taller tower in the spring of 2022. With commercial space added to the plans, the project will now require rezoning and a public hearing, as current zoning allows residential use. In advance of all that, Kelson Group is planning an online public engagement session next week. It will take place on Monday, March 29, from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.

For more information and to register for the session, go online to kelsondowntownproject.ca.

“We’re hoping for people to bring questions and any comments to us,” Fawcett said. “We haven’t yet submitted our development permit application and we know there’s probably some other comments and ideas about the development and maybe a few things we may have missed.”

Pandemic impacts?

The City Gardens project has been in the works since 2017, when Kelson Group purchased properties in the area. Since then, a global pandemic upturned society.

Asked how it impacted the project, Fawcett said it made the company pause and made public engagement more difficult as the company would prefer to meet people in person.

However, the pandemic has shown people value their homes and real estate continues to boom. Fawcett said that with more people working from home, amenities are important. Retail space will be augmented with a dog park and outdoor gathering areas. In addition, he said demand for larger living spaces has increased.

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