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New Buildings

Empire Block

One effect of this growth was a program to rebuild the city, particularly in the downtown core. Many buildings constructed during the railway boom of 1900 to 1914 were demolished and replaced with modern ones. One objective was to design and build a civic centre with a central park surrounded by public buildings.

A civic centre had been planned since 1912, but the high cost of land and the Depression had delayed its construction. In 1927 the old Edmonton Real Estate Association had tried to persuade the land owners to cooperate with the city by providing the land at a lower price, but they had refused. The civic centre begun in 1956 thus fulfils an old objective.

Hotel Macdonald

The civic centre includes Churchill Square, a new city hall, library, art gallery, and theatre. These buildings transformed the appearance of the City of Edmonton's downtown core. The Edmonton City Hall (completed in 1956) was the first step in this development. It was a controversial addition. Critics disliked its modernism while defenders saw it as a symbol of Edmonton's progress.

The Citadel Theatre had begun in the old Salvation Army Citadel building on 102nd Street in 1965. In 1976 it moved to a new facility on Churchill Square. Its initial construction and subsequent expansion was funded by both private and public contributions.

Westmount Shopping Centre

New commercial structures in the downtown core began in 1949, when the Hotel Macdonald was expanded. The Edmonton Journal, in commenting on the addition, noted that the old portion: "will be overshadowed by this far-from-beautiful sixteen-storey rectangular mass." It opened in 1953. Other commercial buildings downtown were the new Empire Block (opened in 1963), the twenty-six storey CN Tower (completed in 1966) and Edmonton Centre (completed in 1974). The last major addition during the golden age was Manulife Place (completed in 1983).

The Hotel Macdonald and the MacLeod Building built before World War One linked the city with its past. The Hotel Macdonald had been completed by the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway in 1916. The MacLeod Building, completed in 1915 by Edmonton businessman Kenneth MacLeod, had been Edmonton's tallest building until the construction of the Hotel Macdonald addition in 1951.

Edmonton Coliseum

Portions of the former City of Strathcona were also preserved during this period. Some of the buildings on both sides of Whyte Avenue between 103rd and 104th streets are still part of the commercial core. Public buildings such as the library and the fire hall have also survived and still operate.

City Hall

New sports facilities were built for the Commonwealth Games in 1978 when Edmonton was the host city. One was the Commonwealth Stadium, containing more than 42,000 seats. The Edmonton Coliseum, where the Edmonton Oilers hockey team plays, was also opened in 1975. Improvements were made to the Exhibition grounds as well.

This article is extracted from John Gilpin, Responsible Enterprise: A History of Edmonton Real Estate & the Edmonton Real Estate Board. (Edmonton: Edmonton Real Estate Board, 1997). The Heritage Community Foundation and the Alberta Real Estate Foundation would like to thank John Gilpin and the REALTORS® Association of Edmonton for permission to reproduce this material.

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