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UBC Properties Investments, City of Kelowna facing class action over campus construction

Residents of nearby buildings claim construction caused extensive damage.
UBCO downtown Kelowna construction site with Hadgraft Wilson Place in background.

The City of Kelowna, UBC Properties Investments and several others including engineers, builders and architects, are facing a class action lawsuit over damage to nearby buildings during excavation for the new downtown campus of UBC Okanagan.

The suit was filed at the Vancouver registry of the Supreme Court of British Columbia on May 3, 2024 on behalf of Monique Saebels, Meghan Beckmann and Eight Spaces Group Inc. They are seeking a class action for anyone living in or doing business in buildings damaged by construction activities at 550 Doyle Avenue.

Saebels and Beckmann were tenants of Hadgraft Wilson Place, which is right next door to the UBCO site. The apartment building operated by Pathways Abilities Society was evacuated at the end of March after resident say they started seeing cracks and other damage. Eight Spaces Group was operating Okanagan coLab in leased space at 1405 St. Paul Street, across the road from the construction site. That building was closed indefinitely in late 2023.

Residents of Hadgraft Wilson Place have still not been allowed to return to their homes. Many of them are currently being put up in housing at Okanagan College.

The lawsuit alleges that as early as July 2023, “the defendants, or each of them knew or ought to have known that the shoring wall that was part of UBCO Development construction site was unstable and the excavation and construction work on the Lands posed a danger to adjacent properties. However, they failed to stop construction and excavation activities on the Lands or warn the plaintiffs and class members of the resultant damage and the dangerous conditions to the surrounding properties."

It goes on to allege that the damage to Hadgraft Wilson Place, 1405 St. Paul Street and also the Kelowna Legion building included large cracks throughout the floors, walls and ceilings, structural damage to the foundation, damage to HVAC and plumbing, malfunctioning elevators, misaligned windows and doors and ruptured pipes.

The plaintiffs claim the city, UBC Properties Investments and the other defendants were negligent for, among other things, not ensuring that the proposed UBCO development design and construction was suitable for the particular geographic and soil conditions of the area and that it was constructed in a manner that would not damage surrounding properties.

The city issued a new development permit for the UBC project recently after UBC Land Trust requested an alteration that would see a two-storey parkade built instead of the original plan of a four-storey underground parkade.

UBC Okanagan has also sent a request through BC Housing to be granted access to Hadgraft Wilson Place to assess possible repairs to the structure. The City of Kelowna has said that it will be several months before resident might be able to return.

The defendants in the lawsuit have 21 days after being served to respond to the lawsuit, which requires certification by a judge to proceed as a class action.

These allegations have not been proven in court.