Big weekend for Skaha Hills

Skaha Hills is off to a strong start, stronger than even the planners of the new residential development expected.

Just in the first two days of sales, 19 deposits have already been made, according to Matt Kenyon of Greyback Construction, which has partnered with the Penticton Indian Band to build the development.

“Sales are overwhelmingly positive. It’s well beyond expectations,” said Kenyon. “We didn’t think we would be here for a year, let alone in a week.”

Skaha Hills is a $250-million, 600-home development being built on PIB lands to the west of Penticton Airport. The resort-style community will include a variety of amenities, including a $5.2-million winery, which is also in its first stages of construction.

“It’s a project that we have been working on for about 10 years, so we are really excited to get started,” said Jason Pechet, president of Stage West Hospitality. “The vines are just getting planted this month.”

The winery itself, Pechet said, will be built next year, and they should be producing wines by 2017, though it won’t be until 2020 they will be using grapes from their own vineyard.

“It is going to be beautiful, it is going to be breathtaking. I encourage people to go up into those hills and get a different view of how beautiful Penticton is,” said PIB Chief Jonathan Kruger.

The homes in the first phase will be rancher-style walkout homes and, according to Jansen, the most energy efficient development in Canada. Houses built to standard building code, he explained, range from a 65 to 72 rating under the Energuide rating system. The homes at Skaha Hills are expected to have a rating of 88.

“That’s no small feat,” said Jansen. “At 91, you are pretty much off the charts … you would be purchasing very little, if any, energy to run your home.”

The land, owned by the PIB, was released for development to their partners, Greyback Developments, in October 2013 and is secured by a 150-year crown lease with the federal government.

There is a lot of history going into the Skaha Hills residential development that opened this last weekend.

It’s being built on the Penticton Indian Band’s traditional lands, connecting it to a history that stretches back for 100’s of generations. And while the band’s partner in the project, Greyback Construction, doesn’t have quite as long a history, it is still very significant that the Kenyon family has been building homes in the Okanagan for four generations themselves.

“They are a strong local company that knows this land like we know this land. But they know it in a different way, in the markets,” said Chief Jonathan Kruger.  “I have a lot of confidence knowing that we have such an excellent, credible, strong family that has an excellent company, willing to be a joint venture partner with us.”

Then there is the history of the project itself, which stretches back to 1999, when the PIB first voted to develop the land. While those early resort and casino plans didn’t pan out, that started the process that led to the ribbon cutting for Skaha Hills last Friday.

The Penticton Indian Band and council deserve to be congratulated for their perseverance, according to Curt Jansen, vice-president of sales and marketing for Skaha Hills.

“Behind what you see today, there has been a tremendous amount of work,” he said.

“A lot of things had to come into place at the right time,” said Kruger, talking about the partnerships not only with Greyback, but the agreements that had to be made with various government agencies. “Our goal is to take giant steps into economic development and this is our first step.”


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