Edmonton's historic Gibbard Block to get makeover

La Boheme Restaurant Bed & Breakfast, in the Edmonton Highlands neighbourhood, is closing its doors in March after 37 years.

La Boheme Restaurant Bed & Breakfast will close its doors in March after 37 years

La Boheme Restaurant Bed & Breakfast in Highlands will close its doors March 18. (La Boheme)

With the historic Gibbard Block set for major renovations, La Boheme Restaurant Bed & Breakfast will close its doors in March after 37 years.

Connie Comeau and her husband, Mike, bought the building in 2006. She said the decision to sell was prompted by "too many losses in the family" after four of her relatives died over the last two years.

"When that happened, it changed me," she said. "I thought, while I'm still healthy and able I want to spend time with my grandkids. Maybe try camping, go on a holiday."

The restaurant and the bed and breakfast were time consuming, she said.

"We really have shared many people's lives at this place," Comeau said. "People got married here, even myself and my husband got married here.

"Getting to meet people from all over the world ... we made so many friends from England to China to Germany. That was definitely my favourite part."

Building to undergo $2.5 million renovation

La Boheme, at 6427 112th Avenue, will close its doors on March 18, she said. The sale of the building to Sparrow Capital will become official on March 31.

Antoine Palmer of Sparrow Capital said the company spent $1.5 million to buy the building and will spend another $2.5 million on the renovations. That includes a grant of $430,000 from the City of Edmonton, which he said "makes a huge difference" in terms of the company being able to take on the project.

Construction is scheduled to begin April 1. The project is expected to take 12 to 18 months to complete.

The building was designated a municipal historic resource in 2017. It will keep its historic exterior cornices, interior stamped tin ceiling, and skylights, Palmer said.

The rest of the interior will be torn out, and the building will be insulated and an elevator added, he said.

The main floor will include a restaurant, a bistro and craft beer and wine boutique. The second floor will be offices, and the third floor be an eight-unit B & B, though some suites could be long-term rentals.

The Gibbard Block, which houses La Boheme Restaurant Bed & Breakfast, has been sold. (Edmonton Historical Board)

Designed by Ernest Morehouse and completed in 1912, the Gibbard Block was originally a luxury apartment building with retail shops on the main floor.

The brick structure was partly financed by William Magrath and Bidwell Holgate, the developers who created Highlands and whose mansions still stand on Ada Boulevard. Ontario businessman William Gibbard also contributed to the project.

Technically just outside the Highlands boundary, the building featured such modern touches as a central gas plant to provide clean cooking fuel. Each suite had a telephone and a bath with hot water night and day, according to Alberta Heritage.

Tours offered to public

The Highlands Historical Society will host a pre-construction open house on March 31. 

People will have an opportunity to see the original woodwork, stained glass features, and full interiors of suites on the second and third floors.

There will also be an opportunity to see plans for the restoration and renovation.
A rendering of what the Gibbard Block will look like following the renovations. (NEXT Architects, Sparrow Capital)