Bergstrom Block

The Bergstrom Block, Mill Creek Whyte Avenue, Edmonton Alberta

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This inner city commercial zone, on one of Edmonton’s busiest streets, has remained unchanged for many years. Its amenities include a nearby park ravine with outdoor swimming pool, year-round walking and bicycle trails and the proximity of recently constructed high-density housing. The Bergstrom Block is constructed on the last remaining commercially-zoned property in the block, previously undeveloped and at one time part of the adjacent low-rise apartment site. The purpose of the project was to develop an infill commercial/residential building that would make a satisfactorily transition between the small commercial zone and the adjoining residential buildings that fill the remainder of the block. This project provided the opportunity to enhance the main street, pedestrian character of Whyte Avenue and to offer a precedent for thoughtful infill development throughout the city.

Urban Design

The project is located near 96 Street and Whyte Avenue, a commercial intersection with restaurants on three corners and two more commercial buildings adjacent to the Bergstrom Block. City Bylaws require that when a commercial use abuts a residential use, there must be a substantial setback that allows for some sort of sympathetic transition. It was decided that this would be best achieved by creating two fronts on the building – one facing Whyte Avenue and one facing west toward the apartment building. This ensured a continuity of materials. Since the Bergstrom Block was allowed to be constructed to the front property line, it was possible to arrange the windows so that there is no direct overlook between the buildings. A garden was created in the ground floor side yard setback that softens the transition.

The Bergstrom Block was recognized with an Award of Excellence in the 2007 Edmonton Urban Design Awards for creativity and excellence in the area of Urban Design. The jury comments were:

  • Good response to context
  • The project clearly interprets the 20th century expression.
  • Nice Infill
  • Defines street edge
  • Good urban analysis
  • Simple and contemporary
  • Parking is behind, has modern expression and fits in context with choice of colours and surfaces.
    • Retail at ground and residential above. Demonstrates mixed use.


Flexibility and Potential

The original intention was to offer the main floor of the building for a public use such as a coffee shop/café with outdoor seating. When, after a year of attempting to lease the main floor, it became apparent that this expectation was premature for the area, the main floor was developed as the architect’s office and the upper floor was developed as the architect’s family residence. The building has been designed to allow for flexibility as the market changes. The main floor can be used for any number of public uses as they become viable. The upper floor can easily be converted to commercial use if so desired.

The Planning

The main floor is oriented to Whyte Avenue with a recessed, weather-protected entrance and a large retail display window. The tall yellow brick panel acts as a bookend to the commercial buildings and as a signboard for future businesses. The residential unit is accessed from the side garden, offering privacy for the occupants of the upper floor, which is a single-story apartment with a complete roof garden that provides an attractive, large outdoor private amenity in the middle of the city.

The Materials

The building uses a simple, modern palette of materials that offers thoughtful animation to the streetscape. The yellow Roman brick is the same that has been used on many post-war buildings in Edmonton since the 1940s. The vertical red stripe is a gesture to the developer who owns a building across the street called the Red Gallery. The extensive use of glass on the main floor is a gesture to the generous storefronts from the Edwardian era that can be seen in nearby Old Strathcona. The oak panel doors suggest an elegance of materials that is so often missing in today’s main street retail buildings and the dark-painted main floor cement board cladding is a gesture to the residential scale of the garden and the next door apartment building. The upper floor acrylic stucco cladding, with black framed windows and roof flashings, was used to obtain exactly the right colour to complete the compositional palette.