UBC to establish new downtown Kelowna presence

An artists rendering of the new UBC presence in downtown Kelowna.

An artists conceptual rendering of the new UBC presence in downtown Kelowna.

New building to include academic as well as a mix of office and residential space

UBC, together with the City of Kelowna, announced today a significant new university presence in downtown Kelowna with plans for a mixed-use development featuring community-facing academic space, office space and university rental housing.

The site for the new development is centrally located at the former Daily Courier location at 550 Doyle Avenue, with rezoning and architectural planning set to begin the coming months.

While the university has long had an off-campus presence in Kelowna-through the Kelowna General Hospital Clinical Academic Campus, the Okanagan Innovation Centre, the Rotary Centre for the Arts, the Okanagan Regional Library downtown branch and through public events at the Kelowna Community Theatre-UBC Okanagan Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Principal Deborah Buszard says that a downtown presence is the logical next step in the evolution of the campus.

“Since our creation in 2005, we have grown from 3,000 students to over 11,000 today and we expect our community to continue its development, reaching a population of over 20,000 by 2040,” says Buszard. “With this kind of expanded presence over the coming years, it only makes sense that we would create community-facing academic space in the heart of Kelowna, in close proximity to many of our community partners working in health, tech, business, and arts and culture.”

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran agrees.

“UBC and the City have worked together on many projects over the years and this was a golden opportunity for us to proactively advocate for the university’s presence downtown,” said Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran. “This will undoubtedly create a wealth of economic and societal benefits and contribute enormously to the cultural fabric of our downtown.”

While the COVID-19 outbreak has created unprecedented health and economic challenges, UBC President and Vice-Chancellor Santa Ono says the university’s commitment to supporting long-term community resilience through education and research remains steadfast.

“The situation globally is difficult, but we know that British Columbia will emerge stronger from this experience if we work together. This project demonstrates UBC’s commitment to the future of the Okanagan and the Interior region of BC while creating new opportunities and ways for students and community partners to access all that UBC has to offer,” says Ono. “As BC transitions to a phased re-opening of the economy over the coming weeks and months, UBC is pleased to be able to play a role in the recovery.”

Plans for the new building have yet to be finalized and approved by the City of Kelowna but are anticipated to include 80,000-100,000 square feet of academic space to support community-facing programs and services. Early concepts also include potential for office and residential space.

The project is also welcomed by the provincial government.

“Congratulations to UBC, the City of Kelowna and all the partners for your vision and fortitude. Coming together to drive innovation is the way of the future for post-secondary education,” said Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training. “A mixed-use hub of campus life will be a game-changer for downtown Kelowna and will provide an exciting pathway for regional access to the world-class programming that UBC delivers. This new state-of-the-art facility will ensure that front-line professionals of the future will thrive, succeed and be able to give back to their communities throughout the Okanagan region and beyond.”

“I’m beyond thrilled to hear about this landmark announcement, which demonstrates UBC’s leadership, vision and tireless commitment in creating a globally-leading addition to UBC’s Okanagan campus,” adds Ben Stewart, MLA for Kelowna West. “Many of the community’s pioneers, graduates and government leaders recognized that expanding UBC to the Okanagan would create greater opportunity for higher education accessibility for students. The choice of a downtown location will undoubtedly provide students with a modern and dynamic learning environment, as they strive to become the leaders of tomorrow.”

As Buszard notes, not only is the downtown location close to important community partners like Interior Health, the Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society, YMCA and Accelerate Okanagan, among others, it’s also a vibrant cultural and business hub for the region.

Mayor Basran adds that post-secondary partnerships are an important part of the social and economic well-being of any community.

“It drives innovation, attracts and grows the talent pool and helps diversify the economy,” he says. “At the same time, vibrant, liveable cities help post-secondary institutions attract top researchers, students and staff which are vitally important to their growth and reputation.

“This will be a key piece of Council’s priority to continue developing a vibrant town centre and compliments the objectives of our Civic Block Plan.”

The investment by UBC was part of an agreement with the City of Kelowna where the City will purchase a 67-hectare portion of the agricultural lands owned by the university to the west of the Okanagan campus, subject to approval from the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training.

The $7.4 million purchase price for the land will come from the City’s Landfill Reserve Fund and the Land Acquisition Loan General Reserve.

“The acquisition of these lands allows for an enhanced buffer zone around the landfill and contributes to the long-term sustainability of this important regional asset, while at the same time creating an opportunity for UBC to establish itself in the downtown core, a goal we’ve been working towards since UBCO’s inception,” says Basran.

Buszard says the next step is to work with UBC faculty and staff, as well as partners like the City of Kelowna, Indigenous communities and the public to determine exactly what the new space should look like and what needs it should serve.

“We have an incredible opportunity to help shape Kelowna’s downtown and integrate UBC research expertise with the community and our many partners,” says Buszard. “I’m excited to see this long-standing aspiration come to fruition and many people will be working hard over the coming months to plan how to best make use of the new space.”

About UBC’s Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC-ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities-the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

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