Historic Ramsey Building may rise from ashes

A local developer is planning to rebuild and restore the historic Ramsey Building on 101A Avenue.
The Ramsey Building has been boarded up since a fire swept through the building's fourth floor in 2009. (CBC)

A local developer is planning to rebuild and restore the historic Ramsey Building on 101A Avenue.

The original building was lost to arson four year ago.

John Day, a retired lawyer, businessman and real estate developer, sees potential in the boarded up building.

On Tuesday, he will be asking city council for some funds to restore the building to its former glory.

The total cost for the project is estimated to be $250 million.

Although Day says it's too early to talk about the project in detail, plans for the new structure include a 29-storey hotel and office tower, with more than four floors of underground parking.

Lifelong Edmontonian Geoff Liebrecht thinks restoring the building would help make the area more livable.

"Anything that could bring more culture to downtown would definitely be welcome," he said.

Todd Mulley agrees. He’d like to see something go up that would draw more people to the neighbourhood.

"We need... to make this like a mini-Whyte Avenue," he said. "On a sunny day like this, it’d be nice to have a couple of cafes or a pub or two."

A bittersweet decision

Ghada Ghazal had a restaurant in the original Ramsey Building. She remembers the day of the fire. (CBC)

One person who is less eager to see the Ramsey rise again is Ghada Ghazal. Her family ran a restaurant on the main floor of the original building for eight years until the fire gutted it in 2009.

Although she is happy the building may be put to use once more, Ghazal says it would be bittersweet to see a new restaurant open where hers once stood.

"Personally, we’re not happy because we would love to be [at the Ramsey]. We feel like they’re taking something from us."

Ghazal remembers the day of the fire.

"We didn’t even hear the fire alarm or anything — just a guy came to the restaurant and started yelling ‘go outside!’"

"We were shocked," she said. "We didn’t know what to do. We just ran out."

When she made it to the street, Ghazal looked up to see the entire fourth floor on fire.

Ghazal later re-opened her restaurant on Jasper Avenue, but said she still misses her old spot in the Ramsey Building.

"We had good memories in that location," said Ghazal, "but things happen for a reason."