Edmonton's SunRise building aims to connect affordability and sustainability

“The intent is to inspire more projects like this to increase sustainability projects within downtown Edmonton”

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Edmonton’s SunRise building is getting a facelift and efficiency upgrades with the help of a new program from the Bank of Montreal (BMO).

“This project will allow us to target our housing demographic of essential workers,” said Daniel Veniot, Avenue Living’s associate vice-president of debt capital markets.

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The former Capital Tower is a 10-floor building located at 10609 101 St., roughly two blocks north of Ice District. Bought in 2015 by Avenue Living, the building was earmarked for refurbishment from the start. Recently, with the help of a BMO funding program that came online this year, Avenue Living is expecting the project to be completed by the end of 2024.

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The building is currently vacant but once complete it will bring more than 170 residential units to the market with some commercial space on the bottom floor of the building. The units will be comprised of studio and one-bedroom units, targeting the young professional rental market.

Veniot said the $28 million used for the revitalization of the building was split towards refurbishment and efficiency upgrades. The group estimated that the building’s upgrades will contribute to a more than 60 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Some of the upgrades include heat pumps, triple-glazed windows, and new exterior wall insulation, among others.

One upgrade that Veniot was excited about is the dual-function mural on the north side of the exterior of the building.

“It’s a major highlight of the project. It will be a one-of-a-kind solar panel mural,” said Veniot.

SunRise building in downtown Edmonton
A rendering of the solar panel mural, which was designed by Lance Cardinal, whose artwork has appeared throughout the city. Photo by Supplied Photo /Avenue Living

The mural will be more than 25 metres tall and will operate as both an art installation and functional solar panel made by Mitrex. Mitrex is a solar panel company that specializes in building integrated photovoltaic systems, which are solar facades that generate solar energy without traditional-looking solar panels.

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The solar panel will hide beneath the artistic mural work of local Indigenous artist Lance Cardinal. Cardinal has worked with several businesses throughout Edmonton, including the Edmonton Oilers, Fort Edmonton Park, the Telus World of Science, and even Edmonton’s Ikea.

Since the building is located on Treaty 6 territory and sits near Edmonton’s Chinatown, Cardinal’s mural on the SunRise building is described by Avenue Living as depicting “the unity, coexistence, and cultural parallels between First Nations and Chinese cultures.” 

Avenue Living said that it hopes the SunRise building revitalization prompts others like it.

“The intent is to inspire more projects like this to increase sustainability projects within Downtown Edmonton, which will attract more investment in the area and create a fresh lively atmosphere in the neighbourhood,” said Veniot.

BMO’s funding comes from a program announced in partnership with the Canadian Infrastructure Bank in January. It helps by providing the necessary funds for commercial real estate owners to maximize efficiency in buildings. James Burrow, director of sustainable finance at BMO capital markets, said the initiative from the bank is a signal to their clients that they want to be a “leading partner” in their path towards net-zero and decarbonizing real estate.

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SunRise building in downtown Edmonton
The SunRise building which is being revitalized to make it more efficient and adding more residences. Taken on Wednesday, May 1, 2024 in Edmonton. Photo by Greg Southam /Postmedia

Burrow said the funds are available to commercial real estate owners who are retrofitting older buildings during redevelopment to increase sustainability, or to simply upgrade sustainability measures for existing buildings without redevelopment.

“This specific program has one other project announced so far — kind of a similar project of a similar size. We’ve got a bunch more in the pipeline across the country,” said Burrow.

Veniot said that the BMO program, in conjunction with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s (CMHC) MLI Select program, can help incentivize commercial real estate operators to commit to affordable, efficient, and accessible housing options when building or redeveloping.

The SunRise building will have several amenity features for its tenants, including a rooftop garden, library, fitness centre, movie theatre and more. Veniot said that once built, the units will be rented under the CMHC’s affordable metric for Edmonton at the time they hit the market.

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Twitter/X: @ZacharyDelaney

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