British Columbia

Kelowna heritage buildings, including former brothel, could get reused

An old barn and a house with a colourful history will get what could be their last chance at useful life after the City struck a deal with a local developer.

Surtees property has old barn and house; developer will get chance to make it into commercial space

The Surtees barn, part of a City of Kelwona-owned property that could be restored and used for a commercial development. (kelowna.ca)

A heritage property in Kelowna that was formerly a well-known brothel may have new life — probably a more wholesome life — thanks to a deal between the City of Kelowna and a developer.

The two parties have struck a development deal to turn the City-owned Surtees property, currently a big red barn and a boarded-up house in Kelowna's Mission neighbourhood, into commercial space.

"When we acquired the property in 2002, it came with the historic buildings and it's always been on our radar to preserve these … we just haven't had the funds to do it in the past," City of Kelowna real estate manager John Saufferer told Radio West host Josh Pagé.

In the early 1900s, the house on the property was a brothel: the Ritz Cafe. Between 1915 and 2002, it also served as an aristocrat's dairy, an artists' colony and a home.

Under the 75-year lease agreement, developer Worman Commercial will pay $200,000 a year and restore the barn and homestead. Some of the rest of the property will be used as trailhead by the City.

But Worman does get to inspect the property, so the deal isn't final. Saufferer says it will require extensive work and it's possible the deal won't make sense for Worman from a business perspective.

"We're very optimistic now though that we have a potential solution that will provide some life and animation for the site," he said.

Saufferer says if the deal doesn't work out, it will probably be up to taxpayers to keep the derelict building standing but there is no money budgeted for that and "Given the condition of the buildings, it's anyone's guess how long they'll last."

With files from CBC Radio One's Radio West

This house on the Surtees property doesn't look like much, but it has lived a colourful life. (Google Streetview)

To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: Kelowna heritage buildings, including former brothel, could get reused

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