The public was invited Wednesday for a first look at North, a luxury apartment tower being proposed for 106 Street and 103 Avenue near the Ice District.
North would replace an existing surface parking lot and feature 350 high-end units.
“We’ll do apartments probably ranging from 500 to 1,000 square feet and then have 15 or 20 penthouse-style apartments,” developer Brad Lamb explained. “All of our products are similar, it’s all modern, it’s very cutting edge.”
As it stands, the site is zoned for an urban warehouse, something that maintains a historic facade to blend into the neighbourhood. Height is restricted to around 20 storeys. That needs to change for North to move forward, so Lamb is looking to have the area rezoned.
“Our first priority with North, right now, is to make sure the City of Edmonton’s planning department and all the politicians are happy with it and we can get it approved.”
Despite the city’s advertisements, few people attended the open house to provide feedback on the proposal.
One resident who did attend was Downtown Edmonton Community League President Chris Buyze.
“Anytime somebody wants to build some more residential downtown, we’re interested in that,” he explained.
Buyze said it’s important for new high-rises to blend into the existing infrastructure downtown and have an appealing aesthetic.
“I think residents downtown generally want a building that’s going to contribute to the neighbourhood. So obviously there’s going to be street retail, a better public realm. More people downtown means more sustainability for businesses downtown,” he explained, adding that the proposal for North appeared to have those features.
Lamb said he’s hopeful the rezoning application will be approved.
“There’s no single-family homes around these buildings, it’s mostly businesses and parking lots. I’m not sure who you’d be offending as residents of Edmonton by building high-rises in this area, so I don’t expect much pushback, but we’ll have to see.”
North is the second tower Lamb Development Corporation has proposed for 106 Street.
In 2014, Lamb announced another a condo high-rise named Jasper House.
Construction was slated to begin in 2015, but other than a sales office, the site remained unchanged as of January 2017.
“We’re probably, at this point, at least a year behind schedule,” Lamb admitted.
Nicknamed Toronto’s “Condo King,” Lamb said he’s built more than 20 high-rises in that city, none of which have been completed on time.
He said it’s the nature of the industry, but was confident progress is being made on Jasper House.
“We are gearing towards starting to build it this year. Our DP, our development permit, is not yet finalized.”
Lamb said his team is working on a public art feature that needs to be approved before moving forward.
The city, meanwhile, said they cannot force a developer to build.
“We processed the application for the rezoning, city council approved it. The timelines, from that point on, in terms of what happen, are in the hands of the developer at that point,” explained planner Andrew McLellan.
Lamb said part of the reason Jasper House is behind is Alberta’s economy and high unemployment rates. Jasper House is only half sold, but that’s not deterring him.
“The plan is to go ahead with this development. I’ve been doing this long enough to realize that markets go up and go down, but I think in the next few months people are going to see a change in the overall environment in the Alberta economy,” he said.
Lamb hopes to see people living in Jasper House in three years time. North, if approved, could be done construction in four to six years.
“Come hell or high water, both of these buildings are going to stand in Edmonton.”