Still not clear when Edmonton's 'ugliest building' will be torn down

It's been sitting empty for several months now and although surrounded by a metal fence there's still no word when Edmonton's old Baccarat Casino will be torn down.

Hopes are high for new development on prominent downtown corner

The Baccarat Casino is closed and surrounded by a fence in the middle of Edmonton's Ice District development. (Gareth Hampshire CBC News)

When it opened in 1996, the pale green roof and red brick facade made the Baccarat Casino stand out on the northwest corner of 101st Street and 104th Avenue in Edmonton's downtown.

Sometimes described as Edmonton's ugliest building, it hasn't got any better looking since it closed down in September. Its paint is faded and a metal fence surrounds it.

And no one seems to know how long the building will stay standing.

Gateway Casinos, which used to run the Baccarat, closed it when it opened a $32-million, 60,000-square-foot facility attached to the new Rogers Place arena.

But Gateway Casinos was only a tenant in the building and what happens next on that downtown corner will be decided by the Katz Group and One Properties, who are developing the Ice District.

"I hope we see something spectacular," said Scott McKeen, the city councillor for the area.

"It's a really prominent corner. It's the gateway to downtown from the north."

McKeen hasn't had an update for some time about what's next for the Baccarat site but said the district is being developed in a phased approach and expects news soon.

A demolition permit was secured for the Baccarat Casino but no date has been given to the city (Gareth Hampshire CBC News)

City of Edmonton officials have confirmed to CBC News the developer got a demolition permit in April 2016, but there's been no date outlined for when the building might meet the wrecking ball.

The Katz Group released a statement saying it isn't releasing any new information on the development.

But past ideas of a tower for the site are getting support from Edmonton's Downtown Business Association, even if that might take a little longer in trying economic times.

"We're all being faced right now with a slower economic period and vacancies are up across the board, so new development will be having some challenges in the near term," said Ian O'Donnell, the business association's executive director.

O'Donnell said a high-rise would be a good fit for the corner but he would be against another parking lot.

'I won't miss it'

McKeen said he's pinning his hopes on something "majestic" to replace the Baccarat building.

"Some people argued it was the ugliest building in Edmonton and frankly I won't miss it," he said.

McKeen said so much development is already happening so quickly in the area it would be unfair to suggest redevelopment of the casino site is taking too long.

Gateway Casinos has already left the Baccarat to open Grand Villa Casino, attached to Rogers Place (Gareth Hampshire CBC News)

O'Donnell said Rogers Place is already attracting big numbers of people back to the downtown, and he expects in time to see another "high quality" development in place of the Baccarat.

"It's too prominent of a lot to not be one of the next lots to be developed," he said.

In the past the Katz Group has said a number of retailers have shown interest in the site.

The Ice District encompasses more than 25 acres, extending from 101st Street to 104th Street and from 103rd Avenue to 106th Avenue.

In addition to Rogers Place, the first phase of development includes a luxury hotel, two office towers, condominiums and apartments, restaurants, a theatre complex, retail stores — and the new casino that replaced the Baccarat.