Residential building set to occupy long-vacant lot on 99th Street

Development is set to move forward on a vacant lot at 99th Street and 89th Avenue that used to house a much-loved bakery and grocery store.

Wild Earth Foods was demolished to make way for the 1932 by Bateman project, heralded as Strathcona's first mixed-use luxury condo high-rise. The proposal initially hoped to build a 31-storey tower, but was scaled back twice after community pushback and changing market conditions — it was ultimately listed for a judicial sale.

Now, Pangman Developments has proposed a residential complex up to 8-storeys high. An application to rezone the lot was approved at a public hearing on Tuesday.

According to the planning report from the city, public consultation showed some people want more amenities in the neighbourhood. Out of the 35 people who responded, approximately seven were in support, 14 had mixed opinions, and 14 were opposed.

"Most concerns were related to the removal of mandatory ground level commercial, and the loss of amenities and services that used to be on the site," the report reads.

Coun. Michael Janz asked the developer if there were plans for any commercial development.

"I think the community is quite pleased to see this … vacant site, empty site turning into some potential housing in a great area, but the issue that keeps coming up over and over, is the grocery store," he said in the public hearing on Tuesday.

"The community loved the grocery store, and I wanted to hear from the applicant, what … [is] going to be considered to bring back some vegetables to the corner?"

Gordon Kent says the lot is a prime location for densifying the neighbourhood. It could bring new customers to the area, helping keep new businesses alive — like the coffee shop and incoming pub across the street.
Gordon Kent says the lot is a prime location for densifying the neighbourhood. It could bring new customers to the area, helping keep new businesses alive — like the coffee shop and incoming pub across the street. (Natasha Riebe/CBC)

A spokesperson for the developer says the plan doesn't include a grocery store, but the zoning will allow for commercial space in the future. They said the building is being designed with an amenity space on the main floor, and development could happen there in the future, if there is market support.

Residents ready for residential

This area of 99th Street has been stagnant for years, but residents are hopeful and ready for it to turn around.

"We desperately need more development and more residential in this area and higher density," said Gordon Kent, who has lived in Strathcona for 31 years.

"I would have been happier if it had been approved for a higher density than it was approved, but I'm happy that more people will be moving into this undeveloped lot."

Kent says the empty lot makes it look like nothing is going on in the neighbourhood.

"It looks like we can't get things going, when it's actually a really great neighbourhood to live in," he said.

The 3,530 square metre site lies on the northwest corner of 99 Street NW and 89 Avenue NW. The city planning report says that historically, the intersection acted as a small-scale commercial hub that served the community.
The 3,530 square metre site lies on the northwest corner of 99 Street NW and 89 Avenue NW. The city planning report says that historically, the intersection acted as a small-scale commercial hub that served the community. (Planning Report/City of Edmonton)

"Also if you have multi-family as is being proposed here, it gives a chance for some people who have lived here and want to downsize to a place to live that's still in the neighbourhood."

Maureen Duguay, civics and planning director with the Strathcona Community League, said the developer met with the league.

"We expressed our concerns about having amenity space and we felt that that was listened to," she said.

Duguay said the league is "thrilled" that there are plans for people to live where the vacant lot currently sits.

"We totally support density. We'd like to have more people in the area because of course, more people means they support more amenities in the community," she said.

The design, building permit, and construction are still yet to come.