Edmonton

'Kind of a shame': Tower development to cast shadow on beloved view

A downtown worker photographs the Hotel MacDonald from his office window every morning. The stunning view is about to change.

Librarian Kirk MacLeod takes the same picture at the same time every day

Librarian Kirk MacLeod takes a picture of his enviable view of the Hotel Macdonald from his office window every day. (Kirk MacLeod/Twitter)

It's a picture-perfect view.

So perfect that Kirk MacLeod has photographed it nearly every work day for six years.

MacLeod, a librarian who works on the 15th floor of a downtown office tower, has an enviable view out his office window of the historic Fairmont Hotel Macdonald, with the river valley in the background. 

"It's a super spectacular view. In my life I've had views of parking lots and parkades, and, for a few years, a basement with no windows. So this is pretty amazing," he said. 

MacLeod started taking pictures of the view shortly after moving into the office in ATB Place North Tower in 2012. At first, he would just text them to his wife. Eventually, she suggested he find a way to share the snaps more widely. So he got a Twitter account. 

Most weekdays, at about 7:30 a.m., anyone keeping an eye on local hashtags will see MacLeod's tweet pop up. His caption is always the same.

"Good morning Edmonton!" he writes. He throws in a couple of hashtags, and tags the hotel's account for good measure. MacLeod doesn't claim to be an expert photographer: he takes the photos using his iPhone. 

A man has taken the same picture from his office window for years. 0:25

"It's just the same photo lined up the same way, pretty much every day. Occasionally, there's fog or there's snow or there's rain. If you go far enough back you'll start seeing pictures of when the window washers come by, which is nice because then I know my pictures will be that much better," he said.

MacLeod is perhaps the most prolific fan of a view of the hotel that's about to change dramatically: in September, city council approved a rezoning proposal for the parcel of land directly north of the hotel at the southeast corner of Jasper Avenue and 100th Street, which is currently the site of Frank Oliver Park.

Developers ProCura Real Estate Services and Great Gulf plan to build a 50- to 55-storey slim tower that will have some commercial and public space, as well as residential rentals.

A green space will be left between the new tower and the hotel. Council members who voted in favour of the rezoning say that while the approved design is taller than previous zoning allowed, it's less bulky and better looking than what could have been built there.

Kirk MacLeod loves the view of the Hotel MacDonald from his downtown office window so much that he photographs it every day. (Kaia MacLeod)

The city sold off the land in the 1980s as part of a deal to save the hotel, Mayor Don Iveson has said. Though there have been conversations over the years about the city buying the land back, the cost was "prohibitive" once the parcel was zoned for a tower.

The loss of more downtown green space is disappointing for office workers, MacLeod said. For him, the finished tower will mean he has to change up the composition of his shot, and the colourful sunrises coming up behind the hotel that populate his most popular captures will be blocked. 

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

Though MacLeod said he plans to incorporate construction progress of the residential tower in his photos as it's being built, once people move in, he'll have to find a new angle.

"It's kind of a shame because the other option I have is over the river valley, which is a spectacular morning view, but doesn't let me say good morning to downtown Edmonton," he said.

The developer hopes to start construction of the tower by late 2020.

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