The site of the former Kelowna High School sits vacant only blocks from the downtown waterfront. The city of Kelowna, Canada, has grandiose plans for this piece of property: a mixed-use neighbourhood anchored by a large public park. The project is aptly titled Central Green.
While the City of Kelowna will not be constructing any of Central Green’s buildings itself, developers will be subject to various goals and mandates the City has set. Central Green is aiming for LEED Neighbourhood Development certification, a standard defined collaboratively by the US Green Building Council, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Congress for the New Urbanism. While no building plans have been finalized, there are three guiding urban design elements to ensure the sustainability goals are realized:
- Reduced vehicle dependency through compact development, availability of transit and car-sharing options, and an emphasis on creating a pedestrian-friendly neighbourhood;
- Optimized water use through grey-water recycling, monitoring systems, and xeriscaping;
- Abundant green space accounting for no less than 40% of the site.
Central Green can be broken down into three components; a high rise anchor along the busiest street, several medium density apartment blocks, and multiple public parks. The high rise will include retail and commercial space, allowing residents to work and shop within the neighbourhood. Social connection will be furthered through the number of parks as well as a variety of residential tenants, since at least one building is set aside for BC Housings’ affordable housing programs.
However, the site has seen no activity for several years. On paper, Central Green has all the trappings of a LEED certified neighbourhood, including a central and well-connected site, emphasis on active transportation paths, an environmentally conscious building mandate, and landscaping that fits the regional climate. It would certainly be a joy to live in this master-planned neighbourhood, but, while the project was conceptualized in 2007, developers have yet to sign on to actually bringing Central Green to life. While the rezoning of the individual land parcels has been completed on schedule, the disposition of these parcels has yet to be announced, hinting at the possibility of poor market demand. So the former school site remains relatively empty, offering only a gravel parking lot and an unkempt grass field.
Do you think master planned neighbourhoods are effective in encouraging development, or should urban planners allow potential developers more free reign?
Credits: Images and data linked to sources.