While many sharp, shiny new condos and commercial towers continue to rise up above the River Valley, one expansive redevelopment project stands to shape the future of Edmonton's downtown.  Rooted in history on the east edge of Jasper Avenue, the rustic three-story Pendennis Hotel is undergoing a spectacular transformation that will blend history with open, modern design and spark new interest in the area.

“We have not seen much revitalization in the Quarters and it has unfortunately eroded over the years,” explains Lorraine Bodnarek, Principal for Pendennis Developments. “We hope to change that a little bit by restoring some of our beautiful architecture and preserving it while creating opportunities for small businesses and organizations that are organic to the downtown, and people who live there and shop and work in the areas.”

According to city historical records, the Pendennis Hotel was originally constructed in 1911 and is a fine example of Edwardian-era architecture style.  The building had a combination of ground floor commercial and upper level residential spaces, with a brick façade and billboards above the parapet. It’s location on the north side of Jasper Avenue in the Boyle Community placed it in the centre of culture and activity of Edmonton’s pre-World War One downtown. The building, also known as the Lodge Hotel, was converted to apartments in the 1920’s and maintained its high quality materials and design.  It even housed what locals described as the best German restaurant in the city. As the years passed however, the structure eventually sat vacant and fell into disarray.

Recent plans for a Ukrainian Museum from the local Ukrainian community (UCAMA) with history in the area also fell through. Lorraine and her partner had been aware about the possible project for years, and with no new takers saw the opportunity to resurrect the Pendennis Hotel.  They purchased it in January, 2019 and started work on the redesign.

“In the case of the Pendennis Hotel tearing the building down was not an option, as it was legally protected from demolition and inappropriate alterations in 2001 when it was designated as a Municipal Historic Resource,” explains Scott Ashe, Heritage Planner with the City of Edmonton.  “That said, it is important to preserve historic buildings because they provide a tangible, physical link to the past, connecting us with stories associated with City's development and contributing to an urban environment that is steeped in meaning.”

The desire to merge history with modern amenities did not come without challenges. “Because the building was left vacant for so long, we had a lot of work to do to and costs just clean it up and ensure it was not contaminated,” explains Lorraine.  “We also had to spend money immediately securing and repairing much of the parapet and roof structure as it was falling onto the sidewalk. Safety for pedestrians etc was the number one priority once we put our name on this project.”

Lorraine was aware of the original vision for the Ukrainian cultural museum and talked to her partner and husband who all agreed it could be a magnificent and very creative project because of the interior layout and character of the historic building. “We have engaged NEXT architects and Delnor Construction who worked on the project with UCAMA from day one and are very familiar with the building specs, challenges and areas of huge potential.”

One impressive feature of the grand 33,000 square-foot rebuild is the very open interior space. Three stories open into the main floor and are surrounded by the original brick wall, open windows and unique architectural elements to the building that they worked to uphold and hi-light.

“The biggest challenge with a historical designated building is preserving the old while ensuring the building operates and functions as a modern and efficient way which is not easy and much more expensive than building a new structure,” says Lorraine.  “We have had numerous challenges with protecting and installing old materials and invested a lot of money on the overall structural integrity to support new rooftop equipment, replaced double hung energy efficient windows and doors. This also includes reinstalled all original brick to ensure it is secure, installing new transformers for power load for a modern building, and a new elevator made to look historic but operate safely and efficiently.”

The Pendennis Development group’s dedication and efforts have left an impressive mark.  “Even with the tougher times in the Alberta economy Edmonton is being led by forward thinking people such as Lorriane and her team on developing with a sense of history and originality,” says Jason Holland of Holland & Associates Real Estate.  “It’s one thing to strictly develop for the almighty dollar but to be conscious of the history is timeless. These developments are essentially creating culture and identity for the City of Edmonton.

Further expanding on this idea is the redesign of the Brighton Block located right next door, undertaken separately by Primavera Development Group.  The two side by side restored buildings will complement each other. While Brighton Block focuses on conventional office space, the Pendennis Hotel will be more of a group shared environment promoting creativity and collaboration. “It’s been a worthwhile risk,” says Lorraine of the massive construction undertaking, “We have to get together with the City, and other developers.  Once you do one, others will follow. It just takes time.”

And the timing right now is perfect.  The City of Edmonton has big plans for the Quarters to transform it into a diverse and inclusive community.  Green space is also important, with designs for the Kinistinaw urban park and the recently completed Armature, the first city-led “green street” pedestrian way. New small businesses like the Moth Café are popping up.  “The Quarters has seen a surge in development more on the commercial side,” adds Jason Holland, “and I believe shortly behind this we will see the residential follow in the years to come.” The Pendennis Hotel will be only blocks away from the Valley Line LRT and the Quarters station, perfect for commuting urbanites and to further connect Edmonton communities.

“Our goal,” says Lorraine,” is to recognize and highlight the history of the building (which is why we named it Pendennis) and create a destination together with the Brighton Block and the Quarters.”  She reflects, ““I’m really proud of this redevelopment, and of the great teamwork - it’s certainly been one of the more intimate and personal projects for us. It’s so unique and creative and will have a huge impact downtown.”

Currently the project is 70% completed, with a projected finish for spring 2020. LEDR has invested $10 million to complete the shell of the building to show to potential clients and will carry on with interior improvements as they work with specific tenants. “There’s not one person, who hasn’t gone through and hasn’t said ‘Oh my gosh, this is amazing!’”, beams Lorraine.

While the Ukrainian group may still come on board, Lorraine explains that “the vision is to have two, three or four tenants who complement each other and have a creative energy and passion such as an art gallery or museum; architects, designers, or artists creating local or home grown merchandise that celebrate Edmonton.”  She adds, “It could be a unique workspace for not-for-profits, or legal professionals who work and are connected to the downtown, or even potentially a restaurant.”

Or perhaps the perfect spot for a leading land development and project management company.  One of Lorraine’s favourite features of the building is the stunning 2,000 square-foot balcony.  “We are adding a large element of curtain wall both inside and on the 3rd floor patio which overlooks the entire river valley. This allows the light to steam in thru the galley and into each floor.” It’s a big selling point, even to her.  “Can you imagine the view as you go into work every day? And there will never be anything across the street. I might move my office there – I like it that much.”

The spectacular Pendennis Hotel has developed into one of Edmonton’s most desirable and gorgeous workspaces that brilliantly combines history and forward thinking design. 

Pendennis Developments will be hosting an open house for prospective tenants on Saturday, December 14 at the Penndennis Hotel -  9660 Jasper Avenue. For more information, please contact Holland & Associates Real Estate or Lorraine Bodnarek at lorraine@ledr.ca.

Posted by Kerri-lyn Holland on


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