Union bank

Memories of the Union Bank Inn

Souvenirs of a historic Edmonton building, the Union Bank Inn on Jasper Avenue.

It was not easy for Diane Kyle Buchanan to sell the Union Bank Inn. The boutique hotel has been a part of her life for over 25 years, but for several reasons she knew it was time to pass it on to a new generation.

The historic bank-turned-hotel was sold to entrepreneur and longtime Edmonton resident Henok Kassaye for $5.9 million in January.

Buchanan remembers the first time she walked in. It was 1996 and the 85 year old building had been closed for years. She took off boarding, turned on a hazard light and walked around with a property manager from Telus, the building’s owner at the time. There were three feet of pigeon guano on the ground floor, and the staircase leading to the upper floors was missing. Still, Buchanan recognized the quirky architectural features, like steel beams and high ceilings, and imagined what might be.

“At the time, my husband was questioning my sanity, but he said if it was something I would like to do, he would support me,” said Buchanan, who bought the building for $410,000. and launched a renovation project that envisioned an elegant main building. restaurant upstairs and 14 elegant bedrooms upstairs.

After 16 years as a bank, 50 years as a regional office for a grain trading company and a few more years as a trust company, it had been hard to imagine anything else for the structure at 10053 Jasper Avenue. But Buchanan, who had worked in a few small hotels in Europe and loved Eleni Skalbania’s Wedgewood Hotel in Vancouver, thought Edmonton was ready for a boutique hotel where “elegance, service and intimacy come together “.

Also a successful real estate agent and developer, Buchanan promoted the hotel by organizing a fundraiser for Kids Help Phone through his rotating club. She hired interior designers to redesign the rooms and sold $10 tickets for the public to enjoy afternoon tea and a tour. She eventually raised $50,000.

Occupancy was high at first, Buchanan recalls, but she soon realized she needed a modern addition to the south side of the building. A five-story, $2 million expansion in 1999 tripled the size of the hotel and brought banquet facilities and business/fitness centers.

“Things went really well for the first three or four years, but then my husband got sick with Parkinson’s disease,” said Buchanan, who later took on partners Shelley and Wes Klein. For the next 20 years, the trio managed and maintained the four-star hotel. hotel, as Buchanan also founded a charitable foundation and created the Buchanan Center for patients with Parkinson’s disease.

Fond memories include when Prince Harry stayed at the hotel while attending the 2017 Invictus Games. And Buchanan couldn’t help but tell the story of when the actor Kevin Costner was invited. It was when the star-turned-country singer was scheduled to play the Big Valley Jamboree in 2009. Shelley’s office was on the fifth floor, the same floor Costner used. Shelley remembers Costner walking down the hall singing along.

During the pandemic, Buchanan says she had to close three times, lay off staff and lose thousands of dollars in fresh food purchased for the restaurant.

“We had contracts with different companies that we had to honor,” Buchanan said. “The first thing that disappeared was the restaurant. People still wanted to stay at the hotel, so we had to get creative and provide small breakfast boxes in the I knew business would come back, but at this moment, it was in a way the last straw that broke the camel’s back.

New owner Henok Kassaye says he plans to use the rear parking lot for events, upgrade the restaurant and add a wine bar and pub.

Buchanan offers a tip. “It’s all about relationships. If someone travels 200 days a year and it’s 6 p.m. and they want to eat a grilled cheese sandwich, make sure your chef can do it. They will never forget it. Treat them how you would like to be treated and I think you will do very well.”

UNION BANK INN – In numbers

1909 Union Bank of Canada purchases 50 feet of land fronting on Jasper Avenue.

1910 Beginning of a $60,000 construction project, designed by architect Roland Lines.

1928 James Richardson and Sons Ltd buys the property for $121,554. For nearly 50 years it was the Edmonton office of the Winnipeg grain trading and brokerage business.

1979 The Northwest Trust Company purchases the site for $1.9 million.

1982 Peter Pocklington’s Patrician Land Corp buys the site for $3.1 million for a 36-story office tower project that was never built.

1996 Diane Kyle Buchanan buys property from Telus for $410,000.

2022 Sold to Henok Kassaye for $5.9 million.