The long-vacant, peaked glass tower at the corner of Jasper Avenue and 102 Street will see new life as a 274-unit apartment building.
The 23-storey former Enbridge Tower has sat empty since 2016. It was acquired by Edmonton-based Lighthouse Hospitality Management in April 2018 with plans to open two Hyatt Hotel branches — one for short-term stays and one for longer-term ones.
In November 2019, the developer was waiting for building permits to begin work.
"And then COVID came," said Lighthouse Hospitality president Paul Aulakh. Suddenly, a business that relies entirely on travel and tourism had become a risky investment.
"We had to change our game plan at that time. It was that period where we were not sure if we are even going to get a vaccine or not, or if the world was coming to an end," he said.
"So, at that time, I decided, 'OK, let's do apartment rentals.'"
Interior renovation is already underway, Aulakh said, and people can expect to see work begin in the coming weeks to dress up the streetfront and update the exterior of the building. The apartments are expected to be completed by the second quarter of 2023. The price tag of this renovation will be upwards of $60 million, he estimated.
When completed, the complex will include a mix of apartments ranging from three-bedroom layouts to studios and furnished suites. The lower two floors, about 20,000 square feet, will be set aside for commercial use, similar to the original hotel plans to include restaurants, gyms, and other amenities that complement the development.
There was record growth in the purpose-built rental market in Edmonton in 2021, with 3,700 new units being added. Despite the number of units added to the rental universe, increased demand backed by improving labour markets and the return of students kept vacancy rates statistically unchanged from 2020 at 7.3%, according to a report from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. While the rental market remained stable overall, vacancy rates declined in the Edmonton core area.
The building was originally built by the Batoni-Bowlen Company in 1981, and was occupied by Enbridge until its consolidation move to the Kelly Ramsey Tower and Manulife Place in 2014.
The tower's peaked upper floors are an iconic part of the Edmonton skyline. An LED lighting project had been planned with the hotel to make it stand out even more, but for now, the top will remain untouched.
"Those three floors at the very top, the most desirable three floors, are not part of the current development," Aulakh said, adding that they will stay available for office space.