The Evolution of 104th Avenue

Massive projects under construction along 104th Avenue are paving the way to what will become Edmonton's trendiest street yet!


HAVE you ever run into someone new in town who asks you where the best places to hang out in Edmonton are? To grab a bite to eat, sip on some drinks, and see a show maybe, perhaps all within walking distance?

Most Edmontonians would likely tell that newbie that they aughta check out Whyte Avenue, or maybe head downtown to 104th Street. Others might suggest the nearby 124th Street or perhaps Jasper Avenue

In the near future, I have a feeling that locals might be recommending a different street altogether when out-of-towners solicit them for suggestions. 

104th Avenue, running through downtown and the Oliver Square district from 97th to 121st Street, is in the midst of becoming the place to be in Edmonton. The established businesses, the new neighbours, and the exciting projects in the works are creating a lot of buzz for an avenue that has come a long way in the last 20 years.
The Arena District will be ready for the Oilers' 2016-17 season!

It mostly centers around the heavily debated new Arena District, which will see not only the state-of-the-art Rogers Place arena (future home of the Oilers), but also the Winter Garden, Delta Hotel, Gateway Casino, Cineplex movie theatre, community rink, restaurants & cafes, retail outlets & boutiques, pubs & bars, office & residential space, and a vibrant public plaza that promises to be "the future hub and heart of Edmonton." 

That's a confident statement!

Anyone who's watched the local news or has been downtown within the last year or so knows that this arena district is well underway, and that 104th Avenue is right in the heart of it all, the arena itself literally stretching from one side of the street to the other. 

But if you're thinking that the evolution of 104th Avenue is entirely based on this new arena district and the accompanying LRT expansion, you're wrong. Yes, clearly it is the engine that will drive the area for decades to come, but there's so much more to the strip than that. Much more!

The new Royal Alberta Museum will open in 2016 along 97th Street.

Take, for example, the brand new Royal Alberta Museum, which is under construction as we speak! It lies right at the end of this strip, along 97th Street, which turns into Chinatown.

Adjacent from City Hall, the new museum location sorta kicks off the Avenue heading northwest from 97th, although technically it is listed as 103a Avenue. Let's just ignore that fact, namely because it doesn't make much sense.

The folks behind the scenes of the new museum boast that this project will have the room, accessibility and connections that it needs to "become an iconic institution respected around the world." 

Construction on the new museum is expected to be complete by 2016, the same year the arena district will host its own grand opening.

A few blocks up the road at the 100th Street intersection is the newish EPCOR Tower, which offers a stunning rooftop panoramic view of Edmonton's downtown and area. Anyone is welcome to step inside to check out some of the cool art pieces or grab a coffee at the Wild Earth CafĂ© on the main floor. 

A view from atop the EPCOR Tower.

EPCOR also happens to be the city's first high rise in more than two decades, a sign of the area's growth and the first in a series of nearby sky-high towers that have been given the green light since the redevelopment of the former City Centre Airport.

Across the street from where the new arena is being erected is the Mercer Warehouse, a charming brick building that binds 104th and 104th, and that houses some of the area's coolest tenants, including Mercer Tavern, Transcend Coffee, Vacancy Hall, and of course Startup Edmonton!

Mercer Tavern is one of the tenants of the gorgeous Mercer Warehouse building.

Startup is a non-profit initiative and community hub for hackers, artists and entrepreneurs. Since 2009, Startup has been "creating collisions between developers, designers, makers, founders, investors and mentors, transforming ideas into companies," giving guidance and support to more than 50 startups over the last few years.

Canada's first-ever Neon Sign Museum proudly hangs above the sidewalk adjacent to Mercer's front doors, at the tip end of 104th Street. These iconic signs represent Edmonton's past, the dozen neon signs lighting up the street like nothing else could. 

The Neon Sign Museum on the corner of 104th & 104th.

The original downtown campus of Grant MacEwan Community College - now known as MacEwan University - sits along 105th through 108th Street, but has grown rapidly over the last several years. The University, including its student housing buildings, has stretched two more blocks north, and it's still not done expanding.

MacEwan University's Centre for Arts & Communications is currently under construction.

Construction is underway for MacEwan's new Centre for Arts and Communications building that will sit next to the eight-year-old Robbins Health Learning Centre.

"This signals a turning point for MacEwan University," said the school's president David Atkinson. "Our downtown campus strategy brings all our students together to share in the resources of our City Centre Campus and the richness of the emerging arts district."

Kitty-corner from the 27,000-square-metre Robbins Centre is another important resource for the local arts community, the National Film Board of Canada's North West Centre. This organization is essential to the development of independent filmmaking in Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, as well as the emerging Aboriginal film industry. 

Behind the Film Board and the streetside Denny's is one of Edmonton's favourite restaurants, The Parlour Italian Kitchen & Bar, which has world-class eats and an atmosphere anyone could get used to. They also host live music shows every week.

From there, along 108th to 121st Street, are dozens of restaurants, pubs, bars, coffee shops, eateries, and other businesses aligning the avenue, including the Canadian Brewhouse, Beer Revolution, Starbucks, Hudson's Tap House, Cibo Bistro, Second Cup, Red Robin, Brewsters, Marco's Famous, Burrito Libre, and the Dream Tea House.

We wrap things up with what will be known as the Edmonton Brewery District, taking over 118th Street to where the old Molson Brewery stands on 121st. In fact, this exciting new zone, which is set to open this Fall, will encapsulate the iconic Molson structure, building outwards from this long-time staple of the Oliver area.

The Edmonton Brewery District is well underway!

The Brewery District "will attract a savvy market that appreciates the principles of smart urban development and green building practices," reads the district's official website.

"The development offers an architectural design that is both historical and trendy in its approach with close proximity to MacEwan University and Edmonton's new Arena District."

This will invite dozens of new retail and entertainment tenants that will cater to all Edmontonians, not just those who will be settling into one of the many new condo towers (Stantec Tower, Ultima Condominiums, Seventh Street Block, etc.) currently planned for 104th Avenue. 

And so that's our stroll down 104th Avenue in the downtown and Oliver neighbourhoods, about to take center stage in our growing city. 

By 2016, when all of these projects have been completed, you might just catch yourself suggesting 104th Avenue to folks new to Edmonton, or to your own friends from out of town. I'll most likely see you there! 

Click HERE for a Google map of 104th Avenue.

The Edmonton Brewery District opens this Fall!


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