Development Rehab for Vintage Hotels

March 4, 2010
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Vintage hotels check in to development rehab

Plans are in progress to breathe new life into two infamous Alberta buildings – the King Edward Hotel in Calgary and the York Hotel in Edmonton. While neither is considered architecturally noteworthy, both cities aim to wrap inner-city development around these restored commercial properties.

In both cases, there are economic reasons behind the decision to restore these older buildings, rather than wreck and replace with newer, bigger facilities.

Built along the 9th Avenue’s “whisky row” in 1905, the plain, blue-collar King Edward Hotel managed to move away from the wrecking ball, even as more historically valuable Calgary buildings were reduced to rubble.

The King Eddy lived on, developing a remarkable national reputation in the ’80s and ’90s as Calgary’s Home of the Blues. Muddy Waters, B.B. King, and other musical giants who toured North America, put the humble hotel back on the map – even if it was still on the metaphoric wrong side of the tracks.

Meanwhile, Edmonton is hoping for a similar second act for the York Hotel, which has acquired a reputation as home to the city’s most notorious nightclub. Police, fire and ambulance staff and liquor inspectors visited the establishment 1,226 times in a one-year period alone from 2007 to 2008.

City officials cancelled the hotel’s nightclub license last September, stating that they wanted the bar closed before someone was seriously hurt or killed. The hotel owners appealed, but that appeal is on hold now that the city is negotiating to buy the property.

Edmonton’s city council wants to incorporate the hotel, built in the 1930s, into a redevelopment plan for a two-and-a-half city block area in the inner city known as the Boyle Renaissance project. It would see the hotel at 10401 96th St. become a combination of studios and living space for artists.