Edmonton

Holland Plaza: From garment factory to chic shopping destination

The abandoned home of the Marv Holland Apparel garment factory has been transformed into a shopping destination with some of city's most popular family businesses.

'The beauty of the old brick, the trusses that you probably only see at the airport hangars'

The developer of Holland Plaza worked to preserve the building's heritage while attracting visionary tenants. 1:26

Marv Holland Apparel was once one of Edmonton's oldest companies.

In its heyday, the brick building at 109th Avenue and 120th Street was filled with sewing machines and other equipment for making uniforms and fire-retardant protective gear.

But in 2013, the garment factory abruptly closed, leaving 80 workers in the lurch.

Less than four years later, the building, now dubbed Holland Plaza, is home to some of Edmonton's hippest businesses.

The vision for the transformation of the plaza belonged to Anton Morgulis, a real-estate entrepreneur who studied sculpture and design, and architecture.

Anton Morgulis is one of the owners of Holland Plaza. (Gavin Thomas/CBC)

He first laid eyes on the building in 2014, after the manufacturer was shut down.

"It was a dark place," he said.

Old brick, trusses hinted at potential

But in the remnants of the uniform factory, Morgulis saw possibilities.

"The beauty of the old brick, the trusses that you probably only see at the airport hangars," he said. "I could see already what it potentially could be."

Trusses at Holland Plaza give lots of open space to business like Duchess Provisions. (Gavin Thomas/CBC)

But preparing the space to where it could be shown to prospective tenants was going to take a lot of work.

"Everything was a challenge," he said. "Going from the start, working with the city, cleaning it up and seeing what can be saved, to the transportation department and the parking. It was a constant battle. Not an easy task."

But the effort paid off.

The main floor of Holland Plaza is now completely leased, to businesses that include a fitness studio, a flower shop and restaurants.

Local tenants key to success

All of the businesses are locally-owned.

Peter Seepish owns Wine Gallery Edmonton, which has been leasing space in Holland Plaza since May 2016.

What appealed to him about the building was the space, he said.

"We always had a vision of what we were looking for; the high ceilings, everything," he said. "It was fantastic."

Doughnut Party is the plaza's newest tenant.

Like other businesses there, it makes the most of the old architectural features of the building, like brick walls and rock floor.

"We just wanted to utilize that as much in terms of the architecture of the space as possible," said Matthew Garrett, co-owner of Doughnut Party.

Matthew Garrett is co-owner of Doughnut Party at Holland Plaza. (Gavin Thomas/CBC)

But that commitment to maintaining aspects of the original building was time-consuming and expensive.

"The floor was originally just supposed to take two days — what we had planned for," said Garrett. "Ultimately it took a week and a half."

Garrett said he was also attracted by the emphasis on local businesses.

"There are a lot of small, family-owned businesses in Edmonton that will thrive in a place where there's a lot of other small, family-owned businesses," he said.

Morgulis said the tenants make Holland Plaza succeed.

"The passion, the culture they brought, the risks they take," he said. "I was there to assist. But it's them who made it what it is."

Morgulis wants to see the area around Holland Plaza grow to contain even more local business.

"I envision this cute little area for a few blocks, to become something special," he said, adding he is looking at other office buildings in the area.

"I think it has all the right ingredients to become something very special."
Marv Holland Apparel before the garment factory closed in 2013. (Supplied)

About the Author

Nola Keeler is an award-winning journalist who has worked with CBC in Whitehorse, Yukon and Edmonton since 2000. She has worked as a host, reporter, news reader and producer for CBC. Send story ideas to nola.keeler@cbc.ca.

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