Kelson reveals more details of $140-million downtown Kamloops development

The development, dubbed City Gardens, includes a 22-storey and an 18-storey tower, three apartment buildings rising to four or five storeys each and and six townhomes. The land area exceeds 150,000 square feet (about 3.5 acres) and the current design concept has 445,000 square feet of residential space — more than 435 units.

An ambitious residential development proposed for downtown Kamloops could be home to as many as 1,000 residents once built out.

Kelson Group has released more details of its proposed $140-million development in downtown Kamloops — and the property management company is floating the idea of purchasing from the city a portion of Nicola Street and the laneway between Nicola and Battle streets to make the vision a reality.

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Jason Fawcett, president of Kelson Group, told KTW the $140-million City Gardens development, slated to occupy 1.5 blocks of real estate south of Battle Street, between Fourth and Fifth avenues, will be home to the two tallest buildings in the Kamloops skyline — residential towers standing 18 and 22 storeys.

“We recognize that it’s going to be a significant change for downtown, but we believe there’s great demand for apartment living and condo living in downtown Kamloops,” Fawcett said.

If it goes ahead, City Gardens will see 18 single-family residences bulldozed to make way for plans that include approximately six new multi-family buildings — two of them towers — and the closure of Nicola Street to traffic west of Fifth Avenue. 

City Gardens

In addition to the two new towers, the City Gardens plan calls for three new four- or five-storey multi-family residential buildings and about six townhomes. Of the approximately 435 units in the development, Fawcett said he thinks about 60 per cent would be condominium and the remainder rental units.

Two existing apartment buildings — The Pines Apartments, a 10-storey residential rental tower on Battle Street and Fourth Avenue, and The Windsor, a three-storey 50-plus condo building on Nicola Street and Fourth Avenue —will remain within the City Garden footprint.

Kamloops-based Kelson Group is one of the biggest landlords in Western Canada. The company owns and operates more than two dozen apartment buildings in Kamloops and others in cities across B.C. and Alberta.

Fawcett admitted the condominium game is still fairly new to the company, which has a 40-unit condo build underway on the campus of Thompson Rivers University as part of The Reach, itself an ambitious residential development.

“It is a bit of a change for us to sell a building, or parts of a building,” Fawcett said. “But we know that for concrete towers to be justifiable, you have to sell condominiums to make it work.”

The groundwork for City Gardens was laid in 2017, when Kelson Group spent $25 million buying up land and properties in the downtown core, including The Pines and The Oaks, a 10-storey apartment building at the southeast corner of Battle and Fourth.

Fawcett said the development still requires a lot of work before shovels can hit dirt — including feedback from city residents and discussions with civic leaders.

“The first hurdle is gaining agreement from the City of Kamloops that half of Nicola Street between Fourth Avenue and Fifth Avenue would belong to the development,” he said. “Road access would be limited, but we would instead provide pedestrian and bicycle access.”

City Gardens
The northwest view of Kelson Group's proposed City Gardens development along Nicola and Battle streets.

Fawcett said it’s not unheard of for a developer or a strata to take over a Kamloops city street, but he is pretty sure it hasn’t happened in the downtown core. The City Gardens plans, he said, call for social gathering spaces, like outdoor kitchens, lounge seating and workout stations, a linear park with bench seating and walking paths, a terrace garden, water features, a zen garden, an amphitheatre, a dog run area and a natural play park area.

But it will not be a place where vehicle use is limited or discouraged. Fawcett said plans include as many as 600 parking stalls for the 435 units.

While there remain many hurdles through which to jump, Fawcett said he’s hopeful work can begin in 2022, assuming the local real estate market keeps warm and the region’s economy stays healthy. The entire project is anticipated to take six to seven years to complete.

“COVID could certainly have an impact on our economy over the next few years and that is something we’re keeping an eye on,” he said.

“But we also know there’s great demand for housing and we’re hoping there’s enough demand for people to live downtown to make this work. COVID and the economy are certainly a question mark but we believe Kamloops has a bright future.”

Fawcett said he hopes to have a comprehensive permit application submitted to the City of Kamloops in December or January. He said the first tower could be ready for residents by 2025.

Kelson founder Ron Fawcett said the company is mindful that some of the buildings that need to be removed have character aspects to them.

“We will work to ensure some of the unique elements of these buildings can be used in our new builds, similar to what we did with our Peterson Landing apartments on Summit Drive, donating wood and other features from the old building that once occupied that space,” he said. “We’ll be looking to the community, too, for some of their creative solutions they would like to offer as a part of our consultation.”

Kelson said company staff will be working with each resident on Nicola and Battle streets to ensure they have time to make alternative housing arrangements well before construction begins.

More information on the project can be found online at kelsondowntownproject.ca.

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