A Photographic Journey Through Time at the Historic Brighton Block

September 5th 2018, by Dave Sutherland

Stepping inside the historic 1912 Brighton Block, it is hard to imagine what the Edwardian building was like in its heyday. Also known as the Ernest Brown Block - or the "Everything Photographic" building as the parapet still displays - there is not much to marvel at aside from some extremely clever modern engineering that is being used to breathe new life into the historic building, and the subsequent development of the Quarters District.

 Brighton Block on Jasper Avenue, photo by Dave Sutherland

Brighton Block on Jasper Avenue, photo by Dave Sutherland


Built by photographer Ernest Brown between 1911 and 1913, the Brighton Block is in fact two buildings, constructed approximately one year apart. Though it does not look like it from the outside, it is difficult not to notice the brick wall that separates the two interiors - and even more difficult not to notice that the second and third floors do not line up.

 Inside the older of the two building halves, photo by Dave Sutherland

Inside the older of the two building halves, photo by Dave Sutherland

Granted access to the structure, a tour of the interior revealed a behind-the-scenes look at the work going on, along with a firsthand view of the historic quirks that make the Brighton Block unique. 

 Misaligned third floor, photo by Dave Sutherland

Misaligned third floor, photo by Dave Sutherland

None of those quirks matter, according to developers Kenneth and Adam Cantor; very little of the interior of the building can be salvaged after decades of neglect and a broken roof have rotted away virtually everything but the exterior walls. Even the decorative columns from the main level must go, though a mould was made to allow for future reproductions. 

 Rotted decorative columns, photo by Dave Sutherland

Rotted decorative columns, photo by Dave Sutherland

The poor state of the interior has not stopped the Cantors and their company, Primavera Development Group, from forging ahead with redeveloping the property they purchased in 2016 into trendy offices overlooking the North Saskatchewan River. 

 Rendering of the finished redevelopment, image courtesy of Primavera Development Group.

Rendering of the finished redevelopment, image courtesy of Primavera Development Group.

Touring the building interior, Kenneth Cantor points out the unique process which involved shoring up the existing floors with wooden falsework, as well as the existing support columns encased in temporary concrete footings.

 Temporary falsework currently supporting the interior, photo by Dave Sutherland

Temporary falsework currently supporting the interior, photo by Dave Sutherland

This allowed workers at PCL to then cut the structure away from the exterior walls to make way for a new concrete skeleton that will support them, after which point the remaining interior - including the floors, the brick lightwell, and roof - will be removed entirely over the month of September. With the walls supported and interior removed, a raft slab will be poured in the basement to support the new concrete building interior.

 New concrete structure supporting the exterior walls, photo by Dave Sutherland

New concrete structure supporting the exterior walls, photo by Dave Sutherland

The work is delicate and has been fraught with unknowns; Cantor relays a story of workers excavating material from the basement only to have a critical load-bearing wall begin to shift about 4 inches. PCL, he says, handled the situation quickly and safely, and Cantor expressed appreciation for their expertise on this complex project.

 The leaning wall of Brighton, photo by Dave Sutherland

The leaning wall of Brighton, photo by Dave Sutherland

Once the work is complete, three new levels of brick and glass office space designed by Hodgson Schilf Evans will rise above and set back from the existing three-storey historic facade. 

 Brighton Block, modern office addition, image courtesy Primavera Development Group

Brighton Block, modern office addition, image courtesy Primavera Development Group

Primavera and the architects worked closely with city planners and historical groups to ensure the addition - required to make the entire project feasible - would compliment the Jasper Avenue landmark.

 The existing roof, photo by Dave Sutherland

The existing roof, photo by Dave Sutherland

The front entrances to the building will also need to change as part of the project to accommodate the new layout, to separate access to the office areas from the approximately 4,600 square-feet of ground-floor retail space. The office floors range from about 5,900 to 7,000 square-feet and are expected to be ready for occupancy in early 2019.

 Brighton Block looking toward The Quarters, photo by Dave Sutherland

Brighton Block looking toward The Quarters, photo by Dave Sutherland

In a city that continues to struggle with preserving its architectural heritage, the Brighton Block project will hopefully set a precedent for the preservation and revitalization of other historical buildings in Edmonton.

SkyriseEdmonton will be sure to return to this project as progress continues. For more information, check out the associated Database file and Forum thread, where you can find more photos of the project tour. As always, feel free to join the conversation in the comments section below.

Related Companies: Hodgson Schilf Evans ArchitectsPrimavera Development Group










Adam Cantor
How One Area is Revitalizing and Keeping its Heart

With all eyes on ICE District, Edmonton has been slowly building up another area: The Quarters Downtown.

July 31, 2018

 The proposed final look of the Brighton Block when fully restored with additional office space. Photo credit PRIMAVERA.  

The proposed final look of the Brighton Block when fully restored with additional office space. Photo credit PRIMAVERA.
 

 

Nestled east of downtown, from 97 Street to 92 Street and from 103A Avenue to the top of the North Saskatchewan River Valley, is a neighbourhood known as The Quarters Downtown. The area has always played a vital role in the city as a cultural hub, and it has seen its fair share of hardships. Today, it has become an important site of renewal and revitalization for the city, and one that aims for a balance of the influx of new buildings and people with a commitment to those who already call it home.

The Quarters was an important first for Edmonton as a city in the form of the first commercial district. Back when horse-drawn carriages were still the primary traffic, the area was a hub for businesses. “The Quarters was where the first commercial district started in Edmonton,” says Mary Anne Debrinski, City of Edmonton’s director of Urban Renewal. “As the city started to grow, the businesses moved westward. The Quarters became a place where immigrants first moved and then left as they prospered, making it a great place to start in the country.”

Kenneth Cantor, president of the PRIMAVERA Development Group, who is currently overseeing the Brighton Block development in The Quarters, says geography has been a major part of the area’s story since its beginnings. “The Quarters has had many unique challenges,” he says. “Although it was a vibrant community at the beginning of the 20th century and home to many active commercial and residential users, as well as a vibrant Chinese community, many of the things that contributed to Edmonton’s success over the next 100 years didn’t treat Jasper East Village/Chinatown as kindly.”

Now, that same geography has made it a prime location for a major revitalization effort that has been underway in its current inception since 2005. Back then, the provincial government amended the Municipal Government Act to include access to a Community Revitalization Levy that funds specific revitalization efforts. The first grant was for Calgary’s East Village, but money was soon set aside for The Quarters as well. In the years since the levy was acquired, the area has slowly been improving.

The Quarters currently houses an estimated 2,400 people, but Debrinski hopes that number will increase tenfold over the next 20 years. To accommodate such a change, the City has two strategies: investing in infrastructure and buying and rezoning land parcels for developers and public projects. For the former, Edmontonians can already see the improvements to 96th Street and, below that same street, new drainage infrastructure is in place to help woo developers. As for property, the City has been buying individual plots over the course of years and turning them into larger plots for private and public use.

“One of the obstacles to redevelopment in the area is fractionalized property ownership,” says Debrinski. “The city bought around 10 lots from five property owners over seven years that we could then consolidate into one large lot that could be redeveloped. For a developer, that’s a long time for them to invest in acquisition of one site. One of the ways we found that we can help speed things along is to slowly acquire the lands and consolidate them.”

Parceling land and investing in infrastructure has attracted developers and public projects, many of which are still in the planning stage. However, the influx of activity has brought people like Cantor to the area, who says the closing of the municipal airport was a significant moment for the area. “There has been a steady stream of other things since [the airport closed] that are starting to create critical mass – Boyle Renaissance, Louise McKinney Park, the Quarters’ street and servicing upgrades, the Hyatt Place, the Five Corners tower, National Cappuccino’s restoration, the Law Offices building, and the resurgence of Chinatown.”

The Brighton Block is poised to join these other projects as a watershed moment for the neighbourhood. The iconic heritage building, constructed in 1912, must be completely renovated inside, but Cantor hopes it will be a central aspect of the revitalized area. “The Brighton Block was always a prominent building in that stretch of Jasper Avenue,” he says. “It’s our intention to restore it to its previous heralded status. One of the things that will contribute to that is it being in its own way ‘centre ice’ even if it’s not in ICE District.”

Cantor says the Brighton Block, while smaller than previous projects like the EPCOR Tower, is a unique opportunity, especially as ICE District continues to dominate headlines around urban renewal in downtown Edmonton. The Quarters offers something different compared to the skyscrapers down the road. “There are large segments of our market who aren’t well served in buildings that large,” says Cantor of ICE District’s massive towers. “Brighton Block’s spaces will speak to those tenants who are looking for something different, something a little bit out of the ordinary. As much as ICE District is corporate personified, the Brighton Block is bespoke.”

As with all revitalization projects, local residents and community groups are concerned with gentrification. In an area like The Quarters, which is historically important for newcomers and artists alike, the fear of getting pushed out comes with real precedent. Debrinski is concerned about the process as well, and points to numerous projects, both complete and underway, that will provide affordable housing in the area.

“The one thing we learned when we did our public engagement is that [residents] didn’t want the area to become gentrified,” Debrinski states. “They definitely want to have 20,000 people living there, but they want a diverse mix of people in incomes and backgrounds. They want it to be an area that will still welcome vulnerable people.”

To that end, the City has worked with numerous local groups and agencies, building and planning projects like the Boyle Street Community Centre and affordable housing in and around the area. These buildings, developed under the City’s Cornerstone affordable housing program, ensure affordable housing will remain in the area for everyone from young families to senior citizens.

One of the most exciting affordable housing projects planned for the area is Artists Quarters, a proposed building that will provide sustainable housing, studios and work spaces for the city’s artists. Rapid Fire Theatre, Alberta Craft Council, and Arts Habitat will all work out of the space, and it will be part of the revitalization cycle that’s been seen in the city before. “The arts are a catalyst for development. We’ve seen this in lots of cities and specifically in Edmonton,” says Julian Mayne, executive director for the Art Quarters. “We can see the Edmonton International Fringe Festival and events that happen in the Whyte Avenue area and how that revitalized that area years ago. When you bring people in, businesses come in and the whole circle thrives.

“The overarching idea with the Arts Quarters is to literally embed artists in The Quarters to ensure that their presence not only initiates the catalyst but stays and becomes part of the revitalization of the area on a long-term, sustainable basis.”

The Quarters revitalization represents an important moment in Edmonton. An area that has long served an important purpose is perfectly situated to become part of the city’s rise. It also has a deep commitment to its history and its people. As new business comes in, projects like Brighton Block and Artists Quarters will not only define its skyline, but the lives of the people living in the area.

SOURCE ZACHARY EDWARDS


 

Adam Cantor
CLOUD to appear in the forecast for Brighton Block and Primavera Development Group

This year Nuit Blanche is set to have a piece called "CLOUD" by Caitlind r.c. Brown & Wayne Garrett take the evening by the storm. 

September 29th, 2018 Nuit Blanche Edmonton will be taking place in Edmonton's downtown.  PRIMAVERA is proud to partner with the following companies in order to sponsor this fantastic, interactive sculpture by Caitlind r.c. Brown & Wayne Garrett called CLOUD:

  • PCL Construction Management

  • Hodgson Schilf Evans Architects

  • Read Jones Christoffersen

  • MCW Hemisphere

  • Jackson Noble Mechanical

  • L.A.P.C. Drywall LTD.

  • Metala-Con

  • Alberta Glass

  • York Masonry

  • ECCOM

  • Kels Electric

CLOUD by Caitlind r.c. Brown & Wayne Garrett. Photo by Doug Wong.

CLOUD by Caitlind r.c. Brown & Wayne Garrett. Photo by Doug Wong.

 

 

 

 

Adam Cantor
PRIMAVERA and the Edmonton Airshow announce long term partnership
 Photo by Ken Cantor

Photo by Ken Cantor

 AIRBOX brought to you by PRIMAVERA Development Group.  Photo by Ken Cantor.

AIRBOX brought to you by PRIMAVERA Development Group.  Photo by Ken Cantor.

PRIMAVERA Development Group of Edmonton, Alberta has come on board as the named sponsor of the Edmonton Airshow’s Aerobatic Show box.  The show box is the marked area where all aircraft can perform their aerobatic manoeuvers.  This area is marked by 2 busses in the center of the field and one single bus on either end.

This agreement cements a long-term supportive partnership between PRIMAVERA and the Edmonton Airshow. 

“We are pleased to commence our long-term sponsorship of the PRIMAVERA Show Box at the 2018 Edmonton Airshow.  A Show Box is the envelope in which the performers are allowed to perform and demonstrate their craft and to push the envelope in much the same way as a site does for a developer.  Both have the capacity to inspire and to serve as a foundation for future growth and opportunity.”

Ken Cantor, President PRIMAVERA Developments

Adam Cantor