The new tower, pictured from the northeast, will be the first highrise built in downtown Edmonton in 17 years. ((EPCOR))

EPCOR has announced a deal to build a 28-storey office tower, the first new highrise in downtown Edmonton in 17 years.

At a news conference Friday, the city-owned utility revealed it has signed a 20-year lease for a new tower on the Station Lands project developed by Qualico north of city hall on 101st Street between 104th and 105th avenues.

The deal will allow the developer to proceed with a 28-storey tower, the first stage of the project, which may eventually house more office space and a hotel.

Qualico has been sitting on the land forseven years, waiting for a tenant. Itwanted tobuild a complex of offices and retail space at a cost of $240 million, but there wasn't enough demand to get the project off the ground.

Mayor Stephen Mandel praised the developer on Friday forshowing patience.

"Qualico could have done it the cheap way. They could have found another way to develop the land, which would have probably given them some kind of rate of return but would not have been the vision that you would've had at the beginning," he said.

"I applaud you and your company."

Commerce Place, the last major tower constructed in downtown Edmonton, opened in 1990.

EPCOR plans to make the tower its new headquarters, consolidating 1,300 employees who currently work in the EPCOR Centre and the TD Tower.

EPCOR Towerwill have a system that collects rainwater from the roof for other uses, large windows to maximize solar heating and a way to recycle exhaust air to heat the garage.

Don Lowry, EPCOR's president, saidit's important that the building make a statement to customers and shareholders about the need to conserve energy and resources.

The development will also include a daycare, fitness facility and restaurant and cafeteria.

Construction isto begin early next year, with a move-in date of 2012.