If all goes according to plan, the Penticton Indian Band and developers for the Channel Crossing retail development expect to see ground breaking in the spring.
Chief Jonathan Kruger said a memorandum of understanding is still being hashed out with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure regarding construction of a bridge that would span across the Okanagan River Channel to Green Avenue and other outstanding road issues within the PIB.
“We have come a long way and it has been a long journey to build a bridge but it is all coming together,” said Kruger. “It is pretty close to being done and we are committed to work together. I am hoping that we start building the bridge by the spring.”
A PIB referendum held recently saw 75 per cent of band members support giving the locatee land owners the right to lease the property for 99 years to develop the Channel Crossing. The project has come up against a number of hurdles, including height of the bridge, that delayed approvals. This had one potential tenant, Landmark Cinemas, shy away from it and revert back to a downtown Penticton location that was not available for construction until last year due to environmental issues.
“We feel the right steps are being taken to finally create a bridge for some development. These developments are going to benefit everybody — it is going to benefit the locatees, the band, the city and the South Okanagan region for jobs. It is going to create a good stimulus for the whole South Okanagan,” said Kruger.
The chief said he hopes this will also open up future development opportunities for the locatee lands that are adjacent to the proposed Channel Crossing development.
Keith McRae, partner at Property Development Group, said the PIB referendum support allows his group to immediately proceed with its plans to create the Channel Crossing. McRae said Penticton is “dramatically under-retailed” and the Channel Crossing will be the gateway to Penticton providing depth in retail for the community. He added they have had a strong response from regional and national retailers, but could not share any of the proposed tenants’ names at this point.
“The tenants that we are getting, not a single one of them are a relocation within town. It is all tenants that are absolutely new to the market,” said McRae. “It is a typical shopping centre mix. We will have some restaurants, some service and some mid-box stores.”
Although one design plan released when Landmark Cinemas was proposing to build their new theatre at the Channel Crossing shows the U.S.-based home improvement retailer Lowe’s as being an anchor, McRae would not budge on divulging any names of the tenants.
“It wont include Lowe’s in the first phase. I think at some point they will take a hard look at the market, but for the first phase we are expecting to work on, it won’t include Lowe’s,” confirmed McRae, adding a big-box store will be included in the first phase.
McRae said if the bridge is built in the spring it will fall in line with the timeline the developers have set. He said he is “confident” the bridge will be approved, but even if it isn’t ready to be constructed in the spring, they could still move forward with developing the property.
“It is not impossible, but certainly more difficult,” said McRae.