News / Edmonton

Lots in limbo: Heritage group pushes to preserve Edmonton’s architecture

Prominent buildings include the Royal Alberta Museum, the Annex and more

Alex Abboud, chair of the Edmonton Heritage Council, says the city needs to start thinkng about saving its mid-century modern buildings.

Jeremy Simes/Metro

Alex Abboud, chair of the Edmonton Heritage Council, says the city needs to start thinkng about saving its mid-century modern buildings.

Edmonton is rife with mid-century modern buildings that are under threat of becoming history, argues a local heritage group, so they say it's now time to save them from bulldozers.

“A handful have already been knocked down or renovated significantly,” said Alex Abboud, chair of the Edmonton Heritage Council.

“Unfortunately, what Edmonton hasn't done well is preserving significant buildings, so we run the risk of waking up 20 years from now and feeling the same way we did when we lost buildings from the first decades of the 20th century.”

Mid-century modern buildings, described as clean and simple, were built during the 1940s to the ‘70s, a time when Edmonton was growing exponentially. This means the city has lots of them, and they include the old Royal Alberta Museum, the CN Tower downtown, the annex on the legislature grounds, the Paramount Theatre on Jasper Ave, and the old Planetarium, among many others.

“We see these buildings as an important part of capturing Edmonton’s history and sharing its story when it grew up to be a big city and represent economic activity,” Abboud said.

During a recent annual update at City Hall, representatives from the Edmonton Heritage Council informed city councillors about the emerging threat of seeing these old relics go.

For example, there aren’t concrete plans to revive the old Royal Alberta Museum, the annex is still in limbo, and developers have eyed the Paramount Theatre for a re-do. Plus, Edmonton has already lost the Central Tabernacle and the old façade of the Art Gallery of Alberta.

Abboud explained it’s up to the owners of the building’s to request the city put them on Edmonton’s historic inventory. From there, the city can seek official designation so they’re not destroyed or completely altered.

But there’s still hope, he added.

He said city council has been more receptive to saving old buildings, noting the recent designation of the Planetarium.

The Heritage Council also hopes to work with the city to make it easier for buildings to be placed on the inventory.

“It’s also about encouraging everyone to be champions of preservation,” Abboud said. “Whether it’s buildings, artifacts or stories, they’re all part of Edmonton’s history.”

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