A long-planned development by the Penticton Indian Band for the grasslands above Skaha Lake may be seeing construction beginning later this year.
“We are very serious about this. We definitely want to do some great things here,” said Chief Jonathan Kruger, talking about the band’s economic development plans.
There is little doubt that the view from the proposed Arrowleaf development is going to be spectacular. Situated on PIB lands west of the Penticton airport, the golf and residential community will command striking views across the valley and down Skaha Lake.
Kruger said all the pieces are coming together, with a feasibility study completed, a master plan process initiated and development partners in place.
Kruger describes it as “a model project in one of the top-10 tourist destinations in the world.”
The final architectural design master plan should be completed by July 15, with marketing and pre-sales beginning over the summer. Construction of the golf course may begin by fall of 2012, Kruger continued, and they hope to begin construction of show homes by spring 2013.
“We are still talking to our community members about Arrowleaf. I am very, very proud of our community, they’ve taken a progressive approach to stepping forward in economic development,” said Kruger. “I truly believe now that it is our turn to get into economic development.”
Kruger expects the existing Skaha Meadows golf course, just below the location of the proposed Arrowleaf course, will remain open, and the Penticton Indian Band Development Corporation has signed a letter of intent with the owner.
The new development will be a strong economic driver for the entire region, citing spinoff benefits from improved infrastructure, economic benefits to retail, commercial and industrial sectors as well as huge employment opportunities.
“This will promote jobs for more than just our band members. If things go right in a good way, we are looking at over 1,500 jobs, easily,” said Kruger.
But getting to this stage didn’t come quickly. Arrowleaf traces its roots back to 1997 when the band voted in support of a casino resort on these lands. The PIB lost their bid for a casino, so that never came about. Then, three years ago, when the PIB began revitalizing their economic development plans, the idea resurfaced.
“Our community said, just because we lost the casino doesn’t mean we can’t do the resort development,” said Kruger.
Even then, he continued, it took some time to find a development partner.
“We had a bunch of developers come in. Some were interested and some said it would cost too much, the infrastructure costs would be too high. So it just sort of sat there, and now we have found somebody.”
Other economic development plans from the PIB and their development corporation are also moving forward, Kruger said, including the possibility of a new bridge over the Okanagan River Channel at Green Avenue, which would open up the land east of the airport for commercial development.
“The height restriction was the major hurdle,” said Kruger, explaining that to meet the original height requirements for the bridge, the grade on Green Avenue would have needed to be changed as far back as Wal-Mart. But now, Kruger said, he is getting support from local MLAs John Slater and Bill Barisoff as well as MP Dan Albas.
“They all think that it just doesn’t make common sense. If there was a 200-year flood, there wouldn’t be anything standing over there except the bridge,” said Kruger. “Common sense says you don’t really need to do that. And if you build it so a sailboat can go underneath it, how are they going to pass the Skaha bridge down farther?
“Those were the challenges that we had for the last two years. Now we are talking about building just a normal bridge straight across, a clear-span bridge.”
Though the proposed commercial development is a separate project from Arrowleaf, Kruger said they are tied together by the airport.
“If we are going to get economic development, we are going to need the airport,” said Kruger. “We need more direct flights. We want to enhance the airport by developing the amenities around it.”