Scott McKeen took the first swipe in the excavator. Paula E. Kirman
BSCL President Candas Jane Dorsey after her turn in the excavator. Paula E. Kirman
On Tuesday, December 18, 2018, a small crowd gathered at the Chinatown Mall (9441 Jasper Avenue). Sarah Itani, Business Development Manager of the Calgary-based Cidex Group, announced to city officials, community leaders, and other invited guests that her company had acquired the abandoned and boarded up property and would begin demolition immediately.
Councillor Scott McKeen and Boyle Street Community League President Candas Jane Dorsey took turns climbing into a large excavator to take the first swipes at the condemned building. The noise of the crashing walls caused a whole flock of frightened pigeons to flee through the roof. Someone joked that perhaps they were the only ones to mind that the building was at its end.
In her remarks at the site, Itani said Cidex has a keen interest in the Quarters District and a commitment to the exciting future of this area. (Since last fall, Cidex has been making rapid progress with the Hat at Five Corners condo project across the avenue.)
“We are an Alberta-based company focused on the thoughtful development of communities,” Itani said. “The power of the development community is not only to build beautiful buildings. Rather, it is to breathe new life into each area it touches.”
McKeen said, “Edmonton has been accused of tearing down far too many of its heritage buildings, but the old Chinatown Mall was far past its useful life. So, its being torn down is addition by subtraction.”
Dorsey notes that at one point the Chinatown Mall was a vibrant business hub and its decline was unfortunate. However, the derelict condition of the site “posed a danger to our homeless neighbours who might seek safety there. The community welcomes community-minded development, and have been promised a voice in the envisioning of the next step for that piece of land.”
This popular site of the Mirama Dining Lounge and several small businesses began to decline rapidly in 2004 after suspected rival gang violence broke out at two wedding receptions and one man was killed.
Demolition is expected to take about two months. Cidex plans to unveil its plans for the property in 2019.
Anita Jenkins is a retired writer and editor who lives in Boyle Street.