Out of luck: Demolition in the cards for old Baccarat Casino

Luck has finally run out for the old Baccarat Casino building in downtown Edmonton, as there are good odds the building will be demolished this month.

The building, on the northwest corner of 101st Street and 104th Avenue, has sat vacant since 2016.

"We've heard loud and clear from Edmontonians that the Baccarat has become an eyesore," said Tim Shipton, Oilers Entertainment Group spokesperson. "We know that, and so we want to get the building down and get the site cleared up."

Site preparation, such as clearing overhead power lines and shutting down utilities, will start first. The demolition itself is expected to take about a week, Shipton said Monday.

The demolition permit is pending city approval.

Travis McEwan/CBC

Phase 1 of the Ice District included the JW Marriott building and the Stantec Tower. As those buildings are open, Shipton said the group is focusing on other parts of the district.The land where the former casino sits is expected to be turned into a temporary parking lot and interactive space, for at least the next few years.

"We've heard from a lot of people that they want their streetscapes to have a little bit more energy. So we're looking at cleaning it up, you know, adding some seating space," Shipton said.

"Maybe art displays or other urban activities where people can actually come and use this space."

Shipton said a significant portion of the revenue received through the parking lot will be added to a community fund.

"We're in early talks with the city and the community on how we best invest that money but we think that'

ll be a big part of our contribution to the downtown core," Shipton said.

More parking

Ashley Salvador, an urban planner, analyzed downtown parking and said more surface parking isn't needed. 

She's said she's disappointed by the plan to use the Baccarat lot for surface parking. She'd rather see a temporary commercial space using shipping containers or a park.

"Edmonton has a vast oversupply of parking already. Maximum around 50 per cent utilization at peak hours and we're shooting for 90 per cent utilization," Salvador said.

"For such a prime location, even if it's going to be temporary use, Edmontonians deserve better than a surface parking lot."

Councillor not keen on surface parking lot

Ward 6 Coun. Scott McKeen said he doesn't like the idea of a parking lot, but he's open to hearing more about the community fund.

"I think there's a really good opportunity here for them to walk the talk being really good corporate citizens, because they're asking for a favour," he said.

He said would like to see the parking lot revenue collected by the community fund going toward affordable housing, or programs to assist the vulnerable people who use the area.

"What benefit is the city or the community getting from the Baccarat site right now? Zero. They knock it down they put in surface parking for five years, and there is a stream of revenue that comes off to the community. I think that's a net gain," he said. 

McKeen said he's also like to see a limit on the amount of time the area would remain a parking lot before the Ice District group further develops the land.