ICE District to purchase historic MacDonald Lofts

ICE District Joint Venture says it has entered into an agreement to buy the MacDonald Lofts Property, but says the building may have to be vacated for repairs and to resolve public health issues.

ICE District promises to help low-income residents find new affordable housing

Tenants say the historic MacDonald Building, constructed in 1913, has fallen into disrepair in recent years. (CBC)

ICE District Joint Venture says it has entered into an agreement to buy the MacDonald Lofts Property.

"Given that we have a fairly significant ownership position in the adjacent lands, we thought it was in our interest to see if we could acquire the site once the current owners decided they didn't want the site anymore" said Glen Scott, senior vice-president of real estate with the Katz Group.

But the building may have to be vacated to make repairs and resolve public health issues. The building will be accessed once the sale is complete.

"Having our people check on the mechanical systems and the life safety systems and try and get a handle on the site conditions, building conditions," said Scott. "Once we know that, then we can, sometime in 2017, figure out what needs to be done there."

The historic building, directly north of the new downtown arena at 10128 105th Ave., is occupied primarily by people with fixed incomes or on social assistance. 

"We're not in the social housing business but we're also very sensitive to the needs of our neighbours," said Scott.

The ICE District said it will work with residents, the province and social agencies to help those people find other housing. 

"I don't know what the degree of occupancy is but there are existing residents living in the building," said Scott. "They could be impacted by being required to vacate because of emergent health or safety issues.

"We will for sure be working closely with them and the government of Alberta and other social agencies to make sure that we can find them permanent safe and affordable housing."

The building is designated as historic and requires discussion with the City of Edmonton on any change for future uses, the venture said.

"Historic designation means you really can't do anything with the facade of the building or do any development associated with the building without having that vetted and approved by the city of Edmonton," said Scott. "We just don't know what the endgame is going to be with the site but it adds another challenge."

Residents have told CBC that the building has fallen into disrepair and little has been done to maintain it.

The hallways smell of urine, the floors are bare concrete, and many windows are broken, they said. 

Earlier this year,  Alberta Health Services ordered one unit in the building to be vacated after an inspector found an "extensive cockroach and bedbug infestation."

The province lists the owners as Norman and Abby Steinberg of Calgary, as part of Mac Lofts Capital Corporation.

The sale is expected to go through by the end of the month.

ICE District Joint Venture is a partnership between the Katz Group, owner of the Edmonton Oilers, and WAM Development Group, now named ONE Properties.