By Kim Foreman-Rhindress
One of the great joys travel brings is the opportunity to explore and learn new things. Along with world-class wineries, Kelowna travellers are surprised to also discover a unique housing development that pushes the boundaries of blending homes with nature.
Largest Master-Planned Community in BC
Located 10 minutes from downtown Kelowna, Wilden is the largest master- planned community in BC. It has become synonymous with environmentally and socially responsible innovation.
“Seeing the different show homes was a real eye-opener to what’s possible,” said visiting Langley resident Joanne Martin. “I had no idea this type of technology could be affordable for regular working people like me.”
Five different show homes, built by top local builders, range from detached houses to townhomes and are guaranteed to impress. The show homes embody the vision of founder Gerhard Blenk of Blenk Developments Ltd.
A Vision Becomes Reality
In the mid-1990s, people thought Blenk had lost his mind when he purchased roughly 2,000 acres of forest, hills and wetlands just north of downtown Kelowna.
At the time, the area was considered inhospitable to all but the most intrepid of hikers, despite its close proximity to downtown. But Blenk had vision and, more importantly, patience.
People who have worked with Blenk admire him as a man who is willing to take the time to do things right. While some developers view their investment with an eye on how to turn a profit as quickly as possible, Blenk’s vision for Wilden could take more than 40 years to complete.
With a variety of wetlands, mountain ridges and valleys, Blenk was excited rather than daunted by such a challenging and diverse canvas to work with. A nature lover at heart, his vision became a passion to create a place that could coexist with the natural flora and fauna of the area.
“This is just the best place to live,” says five-year Wilden resident Twyla Vogt. “So many of our neighbours have become trusted friends. We watch each others’ homes when we travel and never have to worry about who will watch our puppy.”
“I love how close it is to everything,” Twyla’s husband Mark Vogt added. “We both work downtown and it takes us about 12 minutes to get to work. Where else can you get a commute like that?” He laughs. “Not anywhere else I’ve lived!”
Other residents say they enjoy the cool winds in Kelowna’s famous summer heat, fantastic views of the lake and valley, plus the huge network of hiking trails that are an integral part of the development. Almost half of the total acreage will remain undeveloped, dedicated to ponds, wetlands and a whopping 50 kilometres of walking trails.The Hidden Lake trail is a family-friendly gravel path that winds its way for 1.8 kilometres next to the lake, with a nearby playground for children.
Growing Along With Their Residents
“Included in the master plan is an elementary school as well as a town centre we call Wilden Market Square,” adds Karin Eger-Blenk, director and co-chair, who, together with her brother Martin Blenk, has taken over the reins from their father. “Eventually there will be commercial properties, a waterfront plaza and community centre with restaurants and cafés, as well as smaller condos and rentals. We want to be able to provide something for everyone who chooses this special place.”
Working with FortisBC and UBC on research projects for sustainable homebuilding, Wilden is leading the way toward carbon-neutral, climate-friendly living. First buyers of Wilden’s highly energy-efficient townhomes have the option to choose renewable natural gas by FortisBC for one year free of charge. Gerhard Blenk is well aware that he may not live to see the final completion of his dream. His children and now grandchildren are on hand to ensure that his vision is adhered to down to the last detail.
“There is nothing they haven’t thought through here,” adds Mark Vogt. “We have traveled the world and can’t imagine living anywhere else.”
The show homes are available for viewing every day from 1 to 5 pm, except Fridays, and are open to anyone wishing to learn more about this unique place.