Proposed arts hub in McCauley would include materials from U of A Ring Houses

·3 min read
A conceptual design of the McCauley Arts Hub by Primavera Development Group. The proposed project will be located on the northeast corner of 95th Street and 106th Avenue. (Primavera Development Group - image credit)
A conceptual design of the McCauley Arts Hub by Primavera Development Group. The proposed project will be located on the northeast corner of 95th Street and 106th Avenue. (Primavera Development Group - image credit)

A developer in Edmonton wants to include a piece of the city's history in a new project in the McCauley neighbourhood.

Primavera Development Group wants to use bricks from the old Ring Houses at the University of Alberta in a proposed project, which would see a vacant lot on the northeast corner of 95th Street and 106th Avenue turn into the McCauley Arts Hub.

The developer purchased the Ring Houses from the university last year.

"We will be disassembling those, salvaging as much of that material as we can make sense of and incorporating it into the new structure," Ken Cantor, president of Primavera Development Group told CBC's Edmonton AM on Wednesday.

"An opportunity to reflect on our past and our future at the same time."

The arts hub would be a mixed-use facility, including a cafe, daycare and gift shop along with studio space and artist-in-residency programs.

It would also be home to the Edmonton Sculpture Project, which is dedicated to promoting sculpture and professional studio practice through art residencies, exhibitions and opportunities.

Roy Mills, founding director of the sculpture project said that despite the city having a terrific art community, they lack spaces to help the talent grow.

"We don't have the facility and the place to actually bring people to do that in Edmonton and it seems like time," he said.

Originally, ten Ring Houses were built around a perimeter of the university in the 1910s and were used as housing for faculty. The four remaining houses were purchased by Primavera because they were too costly to maintain for the university.

Because of the historic value of the buildings, there was a petition to save them. But despite gathering 2,600 signatures, the houses were put up for sale.

Cantor said they will be using a lot of the exterior material to mirror the look of the Ring Houses.

"The intent is not to replicate the mass houses in terms of what they were built with, but to use them as an identifiable piece of connecting our history with our future," he said.

Primavera has signed a lease for the current vacant lot for 20 years from Edmonton Community Development Corporation (ECDC) with an option to purchase at any time. The non-profit, which aims at addressing poverty by attracting jobs and investment in lower-income neighbourhoods, was established by the city in 2017.

A spokesperson for the city confirmed that ECDC had control over the land on 95th Street before and has now received full ownership as of Thursday.

"Neither Primavera Developments nor the ECDC have submitted any rezoning or permit applications to the city associated with the proposed Arts Hub project as of yet," Rachel Humenny, senior communications advisor for the city wrote in an email.

Cantor also addressed the current homeless encampments in the area, saying they are in touch with Bissell Centre and other outreach groups to keep in the loop about development and are going to fence the site for security reasons.

"That's been an ongoing conversation for the last week or 10 days," he said. "We've been trying to recognize that that's their neighbourhood as much as it is ours to some degree."

Cantor said they still need "a whole lot of money" to get the project moving, although they have secured some financing to finish the relocation of materials.

They plan on making a rezoning application this fall and hope to begin construction in 2023 with completion in 2024.