Renewing the Pendennis

A row of brick buildings on Jasper Avenue and 97 Street marks the transition between Edmonton’s modern core, and the original downtown which dates back to the turn of the last century.

Students of settler development in our city will know that the Hudson’s Bay Company left a large block of reserve land – from 101 Street and running west to modern-day Glenora – which forced early retail and commercial development to the east.

Sadly, little attention has been paid to preserving this original downtown core and not much remains, except for this hopeful row of three and four story structures on the north side of Jasper Avenue, east of the Convention Centre.

The strip has long been bookended by two hopeful anchor buildings restored in the 1990s and occupying the east and west corners – the Goodrich and Gibson Blocks. Though the Quarters Downtown redevelopment is proceeding more slowly than many had hoped, eventually upwards of 18,000 to 20,000 residents will live in the area and further development along this block is badly needed.

After many years of languishing without retail tenants, a pair of buildings in the middle of the block are about to reopen. The “for lease” signs are already up on the Brighton Block, and the building next door, the 109-year-old Pendennis Building, is also set to reopen soon. Work has been underway for the last year led by Lorraine Bodnarek, Owner, Principal Pendennis Developments Ltd., her two business partners, husband Ed Cyrankiewicz and Larry Andrews – and NEXT Architecture and Delnor Construction Ltd. This comes after a decade-long and unsuccessful attempt to turn this vacant and increasingly decrepit building into a museum. When that project fell through, the building was in rough shape and had been the home of a host of pigeons for a few years, but Bodnarak and her team have been working hard on the restoration for the last year. A media tour before Christmas generated some never-before-seen footage of a soaring interior atrium and design plans for a rooftop patio backed by a sensitive four-story addition along the back of the building.

The building could be inhabited by a major tenant as early as this summer/fall, and Bodnarek expects this will “absolutely change the dynamics of downtown and the Quarters.” She hopes their efforts will “spark more interest in the area both by other developers and the City Council to focus and invest in creating an arts, cultural and food and entertainment district to support the wonderful causes and organizations already in the area.”