Mixing old with new

A rendering of the mixed-use development proposed for 24 Front St. in downtown Penticton.

A chic development proposed for historic Front Street could set the design standard for future downtown Penticton projects, according to the architect.

Council will be presented Tuesday with plans to put up a five-storey mixed-use building at 24 Front St., an empty lot currently used for parking and as a shortcut between Front Street and Backstreet Boulevard.

As proposed, the ground floor would be retail space, while each of the upper floors would contain one residence.

However, city bylaws currently limit building heights on Front Street to just three storeys, requiring a suite of regulatory approvals from council, which must also give its blessing to the proposed form and character, which is unlike most of the older buildings around it.

In a letter to council, architect Cal Meiklejohn argues the design is the ideal mix of old and new.

“In addition to being of similar height to the recent infill projects on Front Street, our proposal takes a creative approach to reducing its apparent height when seen from the street.

“The project was designed so that the west façade of the building steps back at the second-floor level and maintains the two-storey height along Front Street in general alignment with the historic Capital Theatre building on the south and the renovated Larsen Tire building on the north,” Meiklejohn writes.

He goes on to note it’s “not a historic reproduction, but a modern infill building” that  “respects the form and character of the street with its glazed (window) retail space on the main floor and the strong cornice line on the second storey.”

The architect also hopes it will “encourage a design standard for future projects downtown by illustrating how a contemporary building can be incorporated into a historical context.”

City planner Randy Houle in his report to council recommends giving the proposal tentative approval and sending it to a public hearing Feb. 19.

“Overall, staff believe that the proposed building will generate positive impacts for the downtown by turning a historically vacant lot into commercial space and four new dwelling units,” Houle writes.

His report notes two other nearby residential projects – 123 Front St., which is complete at four storeys in height and 32 Backstreet Blvd., which is expected to begin soon – have both been granted permission to exceed three storeys. Another four-storey development slated for the corner of Veterans Way and Front Street was approved by council in 2017, but has since been abandoned.

Council will deal with the latest proposal during its discussion of land matters at 6 p.m., which also include a request for a carriage house at 3919 Lakeside Road and temporary outdoor storage at 3917 Lakeside Road.

Meetings begin at 1 p.m. with committee of the whole, for which eight different presentations are scheduled, including an update from BC Transit and a budget overview from the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen.

Once into regular business, council will hear about proposed changes to the electrical utility services bylaw to comply with recommendations from the B.C. government and a proposed revamping of the city’s reserve funds policy.

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