Demolition of Baccarat Casino ends the eyesore's reign over downtown intersection

It’s been described as Edmonton’s ugliest building, sitting on a site called the “gateway to downtown from the north.” On Thursday, the squat Baccarat Casino building is being torn down to make room for another surface parking lot in Ice District.

Often-criticized as Edmonton's ugliest building, it's being torn down Thursday

Baccarat Casino folds

4 years ago
Duration 1:54
Demolition of the Baccarat Casino in downtown Edmonton started Thursday after years of sitting vacant. The CBC's Travis McEwan explains.

It's been described as Edmonton's ugliest building, sitting on a site that is the "gateway to downtown from the north." 

And on Thursday, the squat Baccarat Casino building, with its red brick exterior and pale green roof, is being torn down to make room for another surface parking lot in Ice District.

Constructed in 1996, the building has sat empty since September 2016 when owner Gateway Casinos closed it to open the Grand Villa Casino attached to Rogers Place.

A demolition permit for the building was first granted in 2016 but last week, the Oilers Entertainment Group finally announced that the demolition would go ahead.

The process to demolish the vacant Baccarat casino building got underway on Thursday, Feb. 6. (Travis McEwan/CBC News)

"We've heard loud and clear from Edmontonians that the Baccarat has become an eyesore," OEG spokesperson Tim Shipton said last week. "We know that, and so we want to get the building down and get the site cleared up."

Edmonton city councillor Scott McKeen, whose ward includes downtown, told CBC News in 2017 that he hoped something "spectacular" would be built on the northwest corner of 104th Avenue and 101st Street. McKeen has often made references to the building's ugliness.

Max Amerongen, a spokesperson for Edmonton design organization MADE, said the casino was built for $2.2 million in 1996. Architect Gene Dub was associated with its construction, Amerongen told CBC Radio's Edmonton AM on Thursday.

A demolition permit was first secured for the Baccarat Casino back in 2016. (Gareth Hampshire CBC News)

"Knowing those two things about it made me look at [the building] a little bit differently," he said. "If you've got a $2-million budget to work with, it's quite an interesting move to build a big tower with a large chunk of that just as signage …

"It's actually a surprisingly interesting building for what I'm sure it must have been one of the more boring briefs that an architect would deal with."

Repurposing the site for surface parking is functional but unnecessary given the amount of parking available in the immediate vicinity of Ice District, Amerongen added.

"I don't think a gravel parking lot is the solution to any of Edmonton's problems," he said.

Demolition was to get underway Thursday morning at 10:15 a.m.