September 27, 2018 5:08 pm
Updated: September 27, 2018 7:22 pm

Little park in front of downtown Edmonton’s Hotel Macdonald could be site of tall tower

WATCH: A proposal for a tower across from the Hotel Macdonald could mean a part of a little downtown park might be built over. But, it was never intended to be a permanent park. Kendra Slugoski explains.

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An area that’s come to be known as a green space in front of an iconic Edmonton hotel may be turned into a tall, mixed-use tower.

Great Gulf, a Toronto-based builder and developer, is in the early stages of proposing construction of a tower in Frank Oliver Park on Jasper Avenue in front of the Hotel Macdonald.

The company, along with the consultant Stantec, recently applied for rezoning of 11073 and 10085 – 100 St. N.W. and 9955 Jasper Ave. N.W.

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While the space currently houses a little park, it is privately owned and was not intended to be a park permanently.

“It is a well-manicured site, it is beautiful, it complements the hotel, but it is privately owned,” Ian O’Donnell, president of the Downtown Business Association (DBA), said.

“A lot of people don’t know that a development was actually approved there back in the 80s.”

In the 1980s, interest in developing the site into a high-rise building was followed by rezoning that allowed for up to 39 storeys, according to Kim Petrin, principal for Stantec’s community development planning.

“A regulation in the DC2 (Direct Control Provision) compelled the owners to build a park in the case that this development was not realized. The site has remained as Frank Oliver Park since, although it has retained its development rights for a 39-storey office building.”

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However, the development agreement from the 1980s didn’t specifically address the height that would be allowed and instead approved a maximum total floor area and number of storeys.

Great Gulf is proposing a commercial-residential tower that could be about 58 storeys. The maximum height would be 184 metres and would house 400 residential units.

“It’s another sign of confidence in our downtown and how downtown is evolving,” O’Donnell said. “It’s transforming in a variety of ways. We’re seeing new office towers… we’re seeing some hotels announced, we’re seeing some new park space, new residences, but this tower in particular, it’s a very prominent site and certainly an exciting development.”

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While he understands many are upset about potentially losing green space in the downtown core, he feels there will be a payoff.

“Is it going to be a loss? Absolutely. Are we going to get something really great from it? Absolutely. I guess that reinforces the point of ensuring that we have other parks in the works, and we do.”

As the project is still very early in the application process, public consultation still needs to be done. Stantec expects the design and project details will be refined through city review and community consultation.

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Current designs include commercial use at ground level, underground parking, setbacks to protect pedestrians’ views of the Hotel Macdonald and a publicly accessible park and garden between the proposed tower and the hotel.

“The proposed development consists of commercial frontage facing Jasper Avenue with a slim residential tower set back above the podium and a public garden south of the building which provides views from Jasper Avenue to the Hotel Macdonald,” Petrin said.

“The development supports people living in proximity to high-quality transit. Jasper Avenue is a transit corridor that accommodates several high-frequency transit routes and the Central LRT station is within walking distance. The downtown bike network and funicular network are nearby,” she added.

The Downtown Edmonton Community League told Global News it has had several preliminary meetings with the Stantec on the proposal to redevelop the park.

“The proposed design is hoping to respect the views to Hotel Macdonald and maintain a public plaza,” DECL President Chris Buyze said in a statement. “However, some residents will have concerns about the loss of this green space, which are limited in the downtown core.”

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Garrett Turta with the Fairmont Hotel MacDonald said the proposed tower would be welcomed. Turta said the high-rise could potentially help the hotel with its parking problem.

O’Donnell described this site in particular as one of the city’s “prime development sites” and said there’s growing demand for buildings like the one being proposed.

“We’re seeing a shift to more of an urban lifestyle from a lot of people. We’ve underserved our market as well. We haven’t had some of the newer product, some of the more innovative product, some of the smaller product.

“The views are something that are going to attract people but also the location. You’ve got LRT there, it’s a walkable area, you’ve got the cultural core in there and you’re next to the Hotel Macdonald,” O’Donnell said.

“We want to make sure it complements, as well as it can, the majestic nature and view of the Hotel Macdonald and I know that in their permit, it is a requirement in the way they’ve designed it to make sure that when you’re on Jasper Avenue, you can still see the entrance to the hotel.”

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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