Edmonton Historical Board Attachment


Significance of the Bank of Montreal Building (1963)
At the May 25, 2011, Edmonton Historical Board (EHB) meeting, the EHB voted to advise City Council of the historical and architectural significance of the former Bank of Montreal building (BMO ’63) at 101 Street and Jasper Avenue, and to provide Council with examples of how the existing structure could be made part of a revitalized Jasper Avenue through adaptive re-use or incorporation into a larger redevelopment. Significance of the Bank of Montreal Building (1963) 1. BMO ’63 is a superior example of Modern architecture, and a landmark in the development of downtown Edmonton. BMO ’63 marks the beginning of downtown Edmonton as we know it today. It was the first partnership between Edmonton’s most successful architectural firm, Rule Wynn Rule, and Oxford, which went on to develop much of the city’s core, including McCauley Plaza (now Telus) and Edmonton Centre. It was also the first significant undertaking for Oxford, which was founded in 1960. The firms, under the leadership of architect George Lord and developer Don Love, designed the Bank from 1961-62. Built in 1963, its final form and construction were the result of a unique incentive: the building’s height was made dependent on Oxford’s success in leasing the upper floors. George Lord began with an eight-storey design then reduced it to six. However, the success of the leasing agents pushed the height to ten-storeys, making it the then tallest structure on Jasper Avenue. Lord’s design is a landmark in the development of modern architecture in Edmonton. It was noted in the Capital Modern exhibition publication, which chronicled a very successful Edmonton Art Gallery exhibit of 2007. It features clean lines from a combination of horizontal and vertical banding, metal-cased windows, a flat roof and noble building materials. The main floor lobby’s double-height ceilings and vertical windows opened the space to Jasper Avenue and 101st Street, while the exterior facade still holds the original specially-designed copper lamps. Aside from a need for minor maintenance and cleaning, the exterior façade is in exceptional condition and maintains its integrity. The only significant change is the addition of tinting to the main floor windows, the result of previous occupancy by a nightclub. If the main floor windows were restored to clear glass, minor repairs made, and a revitalized space was illuminated within, the building would be a modernist beacon at the centre of the city. 2. Because the structure dates from 1963, and eligibility for the heritage inventory normally begins at 50-years of age, the building will not qualify for addition to the heritage inventory until 2013. If still standing in 2013, its architectural merits and significance in the development of downtown Edmonton would likely lead to it being considered by EHB for recommendation for inclusion on Edmonton’s heritage inventory, with consequent eligibility for Municipal Heritage Designation and City grants for restoration. 3. BMO ’63 is made of high-quality, valuable materials that will stand the test of time. The building is clad in two primary finishes: horizontal bands of custom green-glazed 1

brick, intersecting with vertical pillars of pink and black Morton Gneiss, imported from Minnesota. The swirling striations in the stone are oriented to flow upward along the building’s face. Morton Gneiss is one of the oldest rocks on the planet – a 3.5 billion year old stone that was once granite before being metamorphosed. Popular during the Art Deco period, it clads landmarks such as New York City’s AIG Building, the Adler Planetarium and the Seattle Exchange. Today, only 8,000 cubic feet of the stone are quarried each year, from a single site in western Minnesota. Potential for the redevelopment and revitalization of BMO ’63 The EHB supports the revitalization of Jasper Avenue, and the retrofitting and redevelopment of historic building. The Board notes that the BMO ’63 building and site appear well-suited to redevelopment and revitalization. Edmonton’s heritage community would be pleased to consult with the building’s owner, architect, builder and leasing agent should there be a wish to explore alternatives to the current proposal. In that case, in general two approaches are possible: BMO ’63 could either be retrofitted (the interior replaced and façade preserved), or the skin of the building could be incorporated into a larger development. Success stories in other cities include: In downtown Los Angeles, hotelier André Balazs revitalized the 1955 modernist Superior Oil Building, converting it into a flagship in the Standard Hotel chain. The conversion preserved the façade while entirely modernizing the interior. Following the conversion in 2002, the building was added to the United States National Register of Historic Places.

At left: Modernist office buildings are being successfully preserved and re-developed. In Los Angeles the former Superior Oil Building (1955) was recently converted into a boutique hotel and added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

Another approach would be to integrate BMO ’63 into a larger development – a tactic that G.E. Real Estate’s current architects (Dialog, previously Cohos Evamy) have successfully executed in Calgary, where they integrated the historic Hollingsworth Building and its facade into the tower complex of Bankers Hall, linking that city’s past and future architecture.
At left: Banker’s Hall in Calgary demonstrates how an historic building façade can be incorporated into a larger redevelopment, preserving different architectural periods for future generations.

Public reports indicate that the proposed use of the BMO ’63 site is an underground parking lot surmounted by a low-density structure (two to three-storeys) built on the site. There is no public information indicating that this new building would re-use the exterior building finishes from BMO ’63 or reference its architecture. It would decrease the density of development in the core of our city.


The City of Edmonton’s Jasper Avenue Main Street Commercial Zone overlay speaks to both infill developments and to “retrofitting and preservation of historical and older buildings.” EHB suggests that BMO ’63 may be a candidate for such a retrofit. Opportunities to consider The historical and architectural significance of BMO ’63 and many similar Modernist buildings is not yet well-understood in the community, and may not be known by the current owner, due in part to the building’s recent history. The building has passed through three owners in the past decade; the lack of main floor occupancy and lack of regular cleaning and maintenance have obscured the building’s potential and architectural merits. Given the building’s historical and architectural significance, and its potential for an adaptive re-use or incorporation into a larger development, the Edmonton Historical Board felt it important that Council be aware of the building’s heritage pedigree and its importance as a key downtown development in the second half of the twentieth century. Should it be Council’s wish, the Edmonton Historical Board would be pleased to be involved in any process regarding the exploration of the historical significance and imaginative reuse of the former bank of Montreal Building.

Reference photos of BMO ’63


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