UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The reconfiguration of downtown Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada, 1980-2006 : a case study of Kelowna's neoliberal downtown transformation Marten, Tina Inez Lissa


During the last twenty-five years, the City of Kelowna, located in the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, has been experiencing rapid urban growth. The city has transformed from a mostly rural agricultural area with a resource-based economy into an urbanized neoliberal Census Metropolitan Area with a post-Fordist economy. This thesis examines the neoliberal urban reconfiguration of Kelowna’s downtown, where one area, Ellis Street, has been transformed due to an economic stimulus, whereas another area, Leon and Lawrence Avenues have been starved, devoid of investment. Kelowna’s population has changed due to in-migration. The city is now hailed as a retirement Mecca in BC, and as a paradise to live, play and work, but this growth has affected Kelowna’s residents in different ways. On the one hand, the city attracts retirees, labour and capital, but at the same time, there has been an increase in poverty and homelessness. Subsequently, the changes to the city’s urban fabric have been quick and profound through gentrification, development and redevelopment, gated and walled communities, and the building of highrises. Some of the most drastic transformations framing this contradictory change have been in the downtown core, where redevelopment has manifested itself through gentrification of old homes, urban infill and luxury highrises. The population of the downtown has also changed with the wealthy taking up residence and in doing so pushing out the poor. This thesis investigates the neoliberal transformation of Kelowna’s downtown, studying the impacts of these changes on the city’s social, economic, political and spatial realm. It further investigates the agents who have been instrumental to prepare Kelowna for neoliberalism.

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