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New Edmonton river valley development includes nod to the past

The Umphreville Block: new Edmonton development
A new development planned for Edmonton's Riverdale community will pay homage to a Metis matriarch "way ahead of her time." Vinesh Pratap reports.

An under-used lot in Edmonton’s Riverdale community will undergo a big change over the next year with a brand new development.

“Our mission is to identify cool, neat little projects all along the river valley where we can build these amenities and bring more people down here,” explained Jay Downton, the president of River Valley Company.

READ MORE: Edmonton’s Little Brickyard House officially designated a historic resource

The developer believes once the three-storey, mixed-use building is complete it will attract “not just Edmontonians but people from around the world.”

“It kind of just all came into place.”

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The building represents a $3-million investment.

A couple of small restaurants will take up the main floor, offices on the second, and two apartments above that to can be used as bed and breakfast suites.

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“We were fortunate to find tenancy very quickly because there is demand down here.”

The building itself will incorporate old brick from the former brickyard that was in early Riverdale and reclaimed lumber from the Cloverdale footbridge is being sourced out.

READ MORE: Edmonton company makes furniture out of Cloverdale Footbridge, gives people ‘a piece of history’

And then there’s the name — The Umphreville Block — named after Louise Umphreville, who died in 1849.

She was known as Fort Edmonton’s first lady and described as a Métis matriarch.

“What’s unique about her is that she was a woman that was way ahead of her time.”

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Edmonton resident Lewis Cardinal is a cultural adviser on the project and describes Umphreville as “one the best kept secrets in Edmonton in its history.”

According to a bio on the Fort Edmonton Park website, Louise Umphreville married John Rowand, who was the Chief Factor of Fort Edmonton.

“She operated the big house, all the servants and everything that went in there,” explains Cardinal. “She oversaw the trades that were happening inside the fort.”

In naming The Umphreville Block in her name, the developers hope to provide a history lesson for future visitors.

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Construction is expected to be complete by next spring.

A night rendering of The Umphreville Block.
A night rendering of The Umphreville Block. River Valley Company
A day rendering of The Umphreville Block.
A day rendering of The Umphreville Block.
A view of the building from the southwest corner.
A view of the building from the southwest corner.
A view of the building from the northwest.
A view of the building from the northwest.
A winter rendering of The Umphreville Block.
A winter rendering of The Umphreville Block.