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Enterprise Square renewal heralds Edmonton’s downtown revitalization

Investment in iconic Bay Building preserves city’s heritage while creating a vibrant hub for innovation.
U of A president Bill Flanagan speaks at an event at Enterprise Square Jan. 24 marking the renewal of the space as a major downtown hub. Photo: U of A/Chad Kruger

The City of Edmonton is in the midst of a major drive to breathe new life into its downtown core, investing $4.7 billion since 2015 in new residential, office, cultural, educational and entertainment space.

A key part of that revitalization is the University of Alberta’s Enterprise Square in the historic Hudson's Bay Company Building, having welcomed 500 professionals to its freshly renovated space and nearly doubling its current occupancy.

The move is intended to strengthen relationships with the business, arts and cultural communities in the downtown area and actively contribute to the city’s economic recovery.

“I’m proud to see this historic building has returned to its position of prominence in Edmonton’s downtown,” said U of A president Bill Flanagan at an event Tuesday celebrating the move.

“Home to world-class learning facilities and a wonderful tech and innovation space, Enterprise Square is set to be a major downtown hub,” said Flanagan.

The UA Innovation Centre will anchor a downtown science and innovation district, he added, “a place where researchers, innovators and the business community can engage and connect.”

With approximately 44,000 square feet of leasable office, lab, co-work office, classrooms and lab space, it is home to 17 companies and houses the U of A’s Health Innovation Hub program.

“This space enables translation of research from the bench to the real world,” said U of A biomedical engineer Martin Ferguson-Pell, who is involved in collaborative projects aimed at improving the safety and accessibility of public spaces in the city.

Since the university’s founding in 1908, it has grown in tandem with the city, said Flanagan.

“When the City of Edmonton succeeds, so does the university, and vice versa — it’s a symbiotic relationship.”

The Bay Building first opened in 1939 as Edmonton’s biggest retail space, with more than 20,000 people passing through its doors on the first day — nearly one-fifth of the city’s population at the time.

The U of A acquired Enterprise Square in 2005 with support from all three levels of government, creating a downtown centre to augment the university’s long-standing and vital relationship with the city.

“I am so pleased that the University of Alberta has reaffirmed its ongoing support for our downtown core,” said Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi. “Having more university staff at Enterprise Square will contribute to downtown vibrancy and support our economic recovery goals.

“The City continues to work closely with a number of partners and collaborators to ensure all Edmontonians feel safe, secure and welcome in the heart of our city, and by continuing to create opportunities like these, we can all support downtown Edmonton in reaching its full potential.” 

Recent renovations to Enterprise Square reflect the university’s Integrated Asset Management Strategy, ensuring world-leading research, learning and teaching happen through efficient use of campus spaces and buildings. The plan is also intended to maximize opportunities for innovation and integration in the wider community through outreach, service, experiential learning and research.

Article courtesy of University of Alberta folio