By Scott Zielsdorf
A local Edmonton developer is looking to breathe new life into a hotel situated in historical Whyte Avenue.
Initially built in 1891, along with the railroad, the Strathcona hotel is one of the oldest buildings in the Old Strathcona area. It’s one of the last remaining full wood-frame hotels in Edmonton.
It was permanently closed down in 2018 following a fire caused by renovation work at the time. Local development company; Beljan Development purchased the hotel following the building’s closure.
Nathan Raju, the originator for Beljan Development, says the company’s goal is the “repositioning” or “adaptive reuse” of the building. This essentially means working with the existing structure to give it a new purpose. In this case, Beljan is planning to convert the historic hotel into a trendy new shopping destination and office space.
“Our vision for the building is to bring it back to life,” said Raju.
Naturally, this is not without its challenges, given the building is designated as a “historic resource” by the City of Edmonton’s Heritage Council. Meaning any would-be repurposing of the building needs to follow specific guidelines laid out by the city.
“[It’s] a process of working with the city’s heritage council to comply with their wishes for space,” Raju said.
There are specific rules in place when it comes to dealing with heritage sites like the Strathcona Hotel (now dubbed “The Strathcona” by their project website). The Edmonton Heritage Council offers flexibility in regards to renovations but insists that “Character-Defining Elements” must be retained and included (according to the website).
This means specific elements, such as the original windows, need to be preserved when converting it to an updated space. Beljan is considering this as the renders for the project feature the original windows of the hotel.
The result will hopefully be an exciting location breathing new life into Whyte Avenue’s unique culture and experience while respecting and staying true to the original spirit of the historic structure.