Edmonton

Edmonton councillors approve new high-rise neighbour for Hotel Macdonald

Edmonton city council voted Monday to approve re-zoning of Frank Oliver Park near the Hotel Macdonald to make way for a high-rise development.

'What they already had permission for was worse than what we approved'

This interactive model on the city's website shows what the southeast corner of Jasper Avenue and 100th Street could look like with the addition of a slim tower next to the Hotel Macdonald. (City of Edmonton )

Edmonton city council voted Monday to approve a new high-rise neighbour for Edmonton's historic Hotel Macdonald.

Developers ProCura and Great Gulf plan to build a 50- to 55-storey slim tower on the southeast corner of Jasper Avenue and 100th Street, currently the location of Frank Oliver Park.

A green space will be left between the new tower and the hotel. The building will include some commercial and public space along with residential rental apartments.

Councillors approved rezoning the park at a council meeting Monday in a 9-3 vote. Councillors John Dziadyk, Ben Henderson and Aaron Paquette voted against the plan. Coun. Michael Walters was absent from the meeting.

A green space will be left between the new tower and the hotel. The building will include some commercial and public space along with residential apartments that will be rental units.

Henderson was worried about the view, not the loss of the park.

A rendering of what the slim tower could look like next to the Hotel Macdonald from the south side of the river. (City of Edmonton)

"I'm not convinced the park itself is important as a park, I think it was the view that was important," Henderson said.

"I think we have not been careful enough with some of the views we have of some of our important historic buildings … once it's gone, it's gone."

He said he doesn't believe that a no vote from council would have saved the park, but said he had to vote his conscience.

"What they already had permission for was worse than what we approved today," he said.  

The park is not owned by the city. The land was sold in the 1980s as part of a deal to save the hotel, according to Mayor Don Iveson. Back then, another tower was approved for the park site, but it was never built.

The new slim tower is "a better tower" than what was previously approved, Iveson said. He said the original design, although not as tall as the one approved Monday, was "nasty and hulking."

There had been conversations over the years about the city buying the land, "but the cost of it was always based on the development rights for a 39 storey office tower, which was just prohibitive for the city," Iveson said.

An artist's rendering of the original design showed the highrise much closer to the historic hotel. The slim tower has now shifted to leave a green space between the two buildings. (City of Edmonton)

The mayor called the slim tower design more "elegant" than what the original zoning allowed for.

The entrance to the Central LRT station on the corner of Jasper Avenue and 100 Street will be removed. Iveson said it was estimated that upgrades and repairs would cost around $10 million. Other entrances to the LRT station won't be affected.

The proposed tower's footprint is about 25 to 30 per cent smaller than standard designs, said Geoff Matthews, senior vice-president with Great Gulf. 

"It's [a design] that we've done often in Toronto," Matthews said. "In that city there's not a lot of land left to build on … we're looking to bring that to Edmonton because we think it's better urban design, especially for a site as important as this."

Councillors raised concerns about the shadow cast by the building. Matthews said the concerns are valid and will be addressed throughout the development process.

Susan Anderson was sad to learn the park in the downtown core will be replaced with a new highrise. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

Cyclist Susan Anderson said she was disappointed to learn about council's decision.

"Edmonton should preserve the look of its special buildings like the Hotel Macdonald," Anderson said.

"It's a beautiful little park right now. Edmonton has so few beautiful little parks [downtown]."

The developer hopes to start construction by late 2020. 

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