A concrete platform sits where an iconic structure once stood above a car dealership on Whyte Avenue and 106th Street.

The Southpark on Whyte sign, measuring nearly 70 feet tall, has been sent to a warehouse to be refurbished while a developer builds a new retail and residential structure on the old car lot.

"It represents an era," said Shirley Lowe, an Edmonton historian and spokesperson with the Queen Alexandra Community League, of the sign that dates back to the 1960s.

"A special time. I think a boom time in our community."

The sign has looked over a vacant lot since 2009, when Southpark Pontiac Buick GMC Cadillac was combined with Don Wheaton Chevrolet one block west.

Southpark concrete

The Southpark on Whyte sign will be gone for two years while developers build a new complex on the lot at 106th Street. (CBC)

Real estate developer One Properties, in partnership with Wheaton Properties, agreed to preserve the sign after community members explained its importance as a landmark.

"There are signs and there are signs," said Tom Burr with One Properties.

"It's been so prominent for so many years, we felt it really anchors the new development in the history of Whyte Avenue," he added. 

"We're quite happy that they've decided to refurbish it and put it back up," Lowe said. 

"There's just not that many people blowing neon glass in this part of the world." - David Johnston, City of Edmonton historic planner

The city has decided to make the sign a municipal historic resource. The designation protects it from being removed or altered in the future.

That's a first for the City of Edmonton.  

"We're just not aware of any other sign that's been formally designated and protected," David Johnston, a heritage planner, said of the designation.

"We're on a little bit of new ground. We usually deal with buildings," Johnston said.

There was plenty of official debate before designating the sign a historic resource because of the cost of maintaining it, he explained. 

The city agreed the structure doesn't have to be restored with its original neon lights, Johnston said.

"The letter shapes will be retained, the colour will be retained, but instead of those letters being neon tubes, they'll have LED tubes in them," Johnston said.

"There's just not that many people blowing neon glass in this part of the world."

Skyline Sign Service Ltd. dismantled the structure in late April and will be giving the sign a facelift over the next two years.