Edmonton's Canada Permanent Building may get new lease on life

The historic Canada Permanent Building, vacant for the last four years, may soon have a new tenant.

The French Quarter the latest plan for historic building after strip club rejected

Edmonton's historic Canada Permanent Building, vacant for the last four years, may soon have a new tenant.

Four entrepreneurs from France are looking to transform the 1910 bank building into The French Square, a centre for French food and wine.

"We're hoping to bring the Parisian flair," said Myriam Melsan Touré. "I want them to feel the Parisian atmosphere. We want to add a little French touch to the city."
Charles Breleur and Myrian Melsan Toure admire some of the exterior detail work on the Canada Permanent Building. (CBC)

The building will house a bakery, a mini French market and a Parisian bistro complete with a roof terrace. 

"Some of us are lovers of old buildings. Some of us love good food, wine, cheese, charcuterie, so we gathered together and decided it would be nice for us to open something that is typical of back home."

The group is now looking to the public for financial support, starting an online Kickstarter campaign to raise $100,000.

Touré said the group has completed market research and is laying the groundwork for the project, including the restoration of the building.

"It's an amazing building," she said. "The windows are just like ... they're beautiful. They're my favourite so far. They remind me of Versailles."

When the group began thinking about their project, they began looking for a space, Touré said. "While we were roaming the city we found the Canada Permanent Building and completely fell in love."

She was shocked the building was falling into dilapidation.

The Canada Permanent Building has been boarded up for four years. (CBC)

"I was devastated. In Paris old buildings are used. Old buildings have a purpose. Old buildings are the soul of a city."

She believes the building will need about 10 months of work to restore it. 

Jim Taylor with the Downtown Business Association said he has been hoping for someone to take on the project.

It's just a shame to have a building — that's quite an attractive building and in a prominent place — sitting vacant," Taylor said.

The building housed the Japanese Village Restaurant for nearly 40 years, but has been boarded up since 2012.

In 2013 a controversial proposal to open a strip club at that location was shot down.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.