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High-rises proposed for downtown

Amacon aims to redevelop Grandin Park Plaza into urban village housing 2,800

By: Viola Pruss

  |  Posted: Tuesday, Mar 25, 2014 03:56 pm

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  • CHANGING VIEW – The owner of Grandin Park Plaza wants to demolish most of the building to begin construction of a major redevelopment containing three high-rise towers and numerous other buildings.
    CHANGING VIEW – The owner of Grandin Park Plaza wants to demolish most of the building to begin construction of a major redevelopment containing three high-rise towers and numerous other buildings.
    CHRIS COLBOURNE/St. Albert Gazette
  • ALTERED PLAN – Grandin mall owner Amacon proposes to build a complex with three towers of 27, 24 and 23 storeys. Its original plan called for five shorter towers.
    ALTERED PLAN – Grandin mall owner Amacon proposes to build a complex with three towers of 27, 24 and 23 storeys. Its original plan called for five shorter towers.

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Big changes are in the works for Grandin Park Plaza.

Mall owner Amacon plans to redevelop the property into an urban village with 17 buildings, including three high-rise towers of more than 20 storeys each, creating housing for up to 2,800 people.

The complex is also slated to contain boutique shops, a grocery store and underground parking.

The existing office tower, Little Einsteins Daycare and the Scotiabank location will remain in place. Everything else will be demolished, including Grandin Theatres, said development manager Simon Taylor.

"We've been working behind the scenes for quite a while now," he said. "We've been looking at different options, revisiting our original scheme – and brought it back up in 2011 – and worked since on refining concepts and revisiting this."

Amacon revealed its plans on Tuesday.

The company purchased Grandin mall in 2007 with the intention of redeveloping the site as a mixed commercial and residential community. At the time, it secured a building permit for 1,200 residential units and 14,500 square feet of commercial space.

The development envisioned the demolition of the entire mall, including the office building and the development of five towers, the tallest of which was to be 19 storeys. Plans were put on hold during the economic downturn of 2009 to 2011.

Taller towers

Taylor said the company has since revisited and modernized its plans. They are now planning for three towers instead of five as well as a number of smaller, mid-size buildings for mixed residential and commercial use.

The number of residential units will remain the same, while commercial space will grow by another 5,000 square feet, he said.

"We want to keep around 1,200 residential units. As far as how many could live there, probably around 2,800 people," he said.

Taylor said building three towers instead of five would allow more light and space within the development. To retain the density that the company had originally allocated for the towers, the buildings will now be higher but also more slender with condensed floor plans. Taylor said the towers will be 27, 24 and 23 storeys high.

"We want to change it from five towers to three but build a little bit higher," he said. "It's just to let more sunlight through. It's the way the development world is moving. We don't want to create a wall on Sir Winston Churchill (Avenue)."

Phase one

Amacon is planning to go before city council in April to submit building and development permits for its first phase of development. Taylor said the company is not expecting any complications as phase one meets the criteria of the direct control mixed use zoning that was previously approved for the site.

Phase one of the development will consist of tearing down most of the mall, while retaining the portion that now contains Scotiabank and the office tower, he said.

The Scotiabank building will be renovated, while two new five-storey buildings (blocks B and C) will be built at the south end of the site. The buildings will offer about 145 residential units, with some office and retail space.

Amacon is also planning to build a sales centre on the site, which will remain in place for about six years, he said.

"We hope that phase one will be completed in early 2016 or very early 2017," he said. "There's the weather window in Edmonton we have to deal with. But we are very confident that we will have a finished product by 2016."

Retail development

The remainder of the site will require amendments to the existing bylaws, he said. Amacon wants to start working with the city this year, ensuring that it keeps with the overall intentions of the downtown area redevelopment plan (DARP) and land use bylaws, he said.

Aside from the construction of the higher towers, he expects that some minor amendments will be necessary to achieve the full build-out the company has envisioned.

"We want more retail in there as well," he said. "We want to create the retail component which is in a different location. When it originally went through DARP it was right on Sir Winston Churchill."

The conceptual master plan developed by Amacon envisions about 87,500 square feet of retail and 73,488 square feet of office space. Taylor said retail would include a grocery store and boutique shops, most of them located at ground level in the residential buildings.

At this time, it's too early to comment on how many stores could go into the development, he said.

"For sure a grocery store and for sure the local people that would like to be in there," he said. "We have the provisions for phases two to four but as we progress with phase one they will work on the details of the following phases."

Later phases of the development would also include renovations of the office tower, the construction of the residential towers and 10 more mixed-use buildings between two and 13 storeys high.

Parking

Most of the buildings will have two levels of underground parking to accommodate both residents and shoppers, with some parallel parking outside the stores, said Taylor. This way, the development won't create any more parking pressure in downtown St. Albert, he said.

Amacon is also planning for a surface parking lot behind the office tower to allow for parking during the day. At night, the space can be transformed to house public events or concerts, he said.

The total site consists of 4.9 hectares (12 acres) with almost 19 per cent of it designed as open space, he said. Full completion of the project is expected by 2025.

"We want to add to the overall vibrancy and vitality of the downtown that is existing there and we think this is a good addition to it," Taylor said.


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