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Tall tower could go up next to historic Edmonton Hotel Macdonald

The historic Hotel Macdonald in the heart of downtown Edmonton may be getting a neighbour — a tall one. And local organizations hope a new building won’t overshadow the century-old hotel.

Companies want to build up to 55-storey tower on the park just north of the hotel

The Fairmont Hotel Macdonald on the corner of Jasper Avenue and 100th Street is a historic landmark in downtown Edmonton. (CBC)

The historic Hotel Macdonald in the heart of downtown Edmonton may be getting a tall new neighbour, and local organizations hope the building won't overshadow the century-old hotel.

In a joint venture, ProCura and Great Gulf propose to build a mixed-use tower up to 55 storeys high on the privately owned lot to the north of the hotel, which is now Frank Oliver Park.

Garrett Turta, general manager of the hotel, said ideally the park would stay and nothing would go up. But he said he's realistic about future developments. 

We're going to maintain our history and our heritage.- Hotel Macdonald general manager

"We always thought at some point that somebody may develop something on that site. We have to just work with whatever happens." 

Opened in 1915 on a prime downtown corner lot overlooking the North Saskatchewan River, the Macdonald is arguably one of the most recognized landmarks in the city. 
A rendering of the previous tower design is still displayed in at the park in front of the Hotel Macdonald. (CBC)

"We're a historic building, we're going to maintain our history and our heritage," Turta told CBC News this week. "That's what's most important for us." 

Ian O'Donnell, executive director of the Edmonton Downtown Business Association, supports the development if it's done responsibly.

"There's a majestic nature to the view of the Hotel Macdonald from the south side," he told CBC News Monday. "Also from Jasper Avenue, you do see the beautiful silhouette of the Macdonald."

O'Donnell said he wants to see a design that respects the "view corridors" of the hotel and a proposal that ensures both buildings can "work together."

The business association got a notice from Stantec consulting last week. 
Garrett Turta, general manager of the Hotel Macdonald, believes the building's historic character will survive the development. (Garrett Turta)
  Stantec is asking neighbouring property owners for feedback on their proposal to have the lot rezoned to accommodate a higher tower. 

Currently, the lot is zoned to allow for a 39-storey office tower, which ProCura had suggested building in late 2016. 

George Schluessel, president and CEO of ProCura, said the company started talking to Great Gulf a couple of years ago to come up with a mixed-use tower with commercial and retail at ground level and apartment units, a hotel and office space above.

"The lot is a spectacular development site," Schluessel said.

He said the building will not block views of the Macdonald Hotel. 

Chris Buyze with the downtown Edmonton community league is opposed to the idea of losing the park to a tower. 

"Losing the green space is not ideal, but we do understand that it is privately held land."

He also hopes the tower design "respects its location" next to the hotel.

"Maybe there even continues to be a bit of an open space shared with Hotel Macdonald," he said. "Something innovative could be done with the design and that would be our greatest hope."

An employee at the Macdonald told CBC News he's not in favour of the development and is skeptical anything will get built on that lot. 
The proposed tower would go up on what's now the Frank Oliver Park beside the Hotel Macdonald, with the iconic statue of Scottish poet Robbie Burns. (CBC)

O'Donnell said he's pleased to hear Great Gulf, the company behind high-rise developments in Toronto, is involved in developing the land,

"Always great to have more competition coming to the city. It drives innovation."

Schluessel noted the tower would include new underground parking with access directly into the Macdonald.

"I think it's a win-win."

Stantec will gather feedback until March 31 before it makes a formal application to the city to have the lot rezoned. 

@natashariebe

About the Author

Natasha Riebe

Journalist

Natasha Riebe landed at CBC News in Edmonton after radio, TV and print journalism gigs in Halifax, Seoul, Yellowknife and on Vancouver Island. Please send tips in confidence to natasha.riebe@cbc.ca.

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