Edmonton

Condo tower for artists in Quarters gets green light

Councillors unanimously approved a zoning change to permit the development in The Quarters during a public hearing at city hall Monday afternoon.

'This is a way to ensure that artists are embedded in that community for the long term'

The 18-storey tower proposed for 96 Street and 102A Avenue will include 64 live work units. Edmonton council has approved a zoning change to allow the development. (Communitas Group )

Arts groups proposing a tower of live-work units in The Quarters area of downtown Edmonton say the go-ahead from the city is a milestone, but the next step will be to win support from the federal and provincial governments.

Council approved a zoning change to permit the development in the neighbourhood during a public hearing at city hall Monday afternoon.    

It is an essential milestone.- Linda Huffman, executive director, Arts Habitat Edmonton

"It is an essential milestone," said Linda Huffman, executive director of Arts Habitat Edmonton, which has been working on the project with Artists Urban Village for the past five years.

The groups have done extensive design work with heritage planners and architects to come up with a building that aligns with the city's vision for the corner of 96th Street and 102A Avenue.
An artist's rendition of the Artist Quarters in downtown Edmonton. (Arts Habitat Edmonton )

The first four floors will be a podium which will house Rapid Fire Theatre, Mile Zero Dance and the Alberta Craft Council.

There will also be an atrium and 21 studios suitable for individual artists or small organizations. The remaining 14 floors will consist of 64 units where artists can live and work.

The price tag on the project is $63 million.

While the city is putting up $8.3 million, the arts groups are counting on an additional $8.3 million from each of the federal and provincial governments.

The rest of the funding is to come from the sale of the units, 20 of which will be affordable housing.

Preserving downtown heritage

The development will incorporate the historic Koermann Block built in 1912. The yellow bricks from the north and east facades will be removed, cleaned, and added to the new tower.

There is a 1920s-era replica of the Koermann Block in Fort Edmonton Park.

"A lot of renovation happened to the building in the 1950s," Huffman said. "What we're doing is we're going to focus on the 1950s era in our reconstruction of the building."

Coun. Scott McKeen thinks the development will be a catalyst to revitalize the area. He said he's "heard sort of through the grapevine that the feds are ready to go." The bigger challenge is the cash-strapped province.

"We all know that the province is under some pretty heavy constraint, but the world can't stop," McKeen said.

Linda Huffman, the executive director of Arts Habitat Edmonton, stands outside of the council chambers at Edmonton City Hall after council's decision to grant a zoning change in the Quarters to allow a condo tower for artists. Arts Habitat is proposing the project with Artists Urban Village. (Roberta Bell/CBC)

Huffman said at this point "no promises have been made" to the groups by the higher levels of government. She said while they don't have particular grants in mind, she suspects the project could potentially be compatible with various funding pots.

If the federal and provincial governments pony up the rest of the money needed, Huffman said shovels could be in the ground in six months with the construction timeline at two years.

The building would stand just blocks from the Citadel Theatre and Art Gallery of Alberta.

"It's a neighbourhood that has a lot of history in terms of the arts community," Huffman said. "This is a way to ensure that artists are embedded in that community for the long term."

roberta.bell@cbc.ca

@roberta__bell