When Beljan Developments acquired the land at the corner of Whyte Avenue and Gateway Boulevard in January 2020, visioneer Ivan Beljan knew it had to be used for something special. “I am a born and raised Edmontonian, and coming into Edmonton from the airport feels pretty dull until you hit Whyte Avenue. Then, it starts to feel like a city with a main street and a view of the downtown skyline. But the curb appeal of that corner was still very underwhelming, and I saw that as a real opportunity to do something that is a little more welcoming, a little more innovative, and be a good thing for the city and for that area.”
To liven up the space, Beljan Developments settled on a new-to-Edmonton concept the team had seen during their travels: a shopping, dining and entertainment destination made from shipping containers. It was modelled after Boxpark in London, Detroit Shipping Company in Detroit, Stackt in Toronto and Downtown Container Park in Las Vegas. Edmonton’s version, Station Park features 21 micro-retail vendor spaces, an outdoor event stage, and food and beer halls.
The decision to build a place that offers micro retail opportunities was part of an effort to support small businesses with what Beljan feels are affordable, short-term lease options. “We’re a local developer, and we’re really aligned with local entrepreneurs and local business owners,” Beljan says. “Station Park is a platform for startups and smaller-scale retailers, like people who have been operating at a farmers’ market or out of their basement — or even those who just have an idea they want to test out.” Some of the 21 retail spaces are available for short-term or pop-up leases, with the idea that those vendors can test a concept and may eventually move into a more permanent space in Station Park, or move into a larger space elsewhere in Edmonton.
Because Station Park has different climate considerations than the locations that inspired it, it could not be built solely from shipping containers. After thinking through about 40 iterations, Beljan Developments settled on a hybrid version. “It still has the spirit of a shipping container but is designed to handle extreme cold, has more expansive ceilings and fits the scale of the site it’s built on.”
Station Park is comprised of a three-storey building that is home to 11 tenants on the main floor, and food and beer halls on the second and third floors. The dining locations are operated by Epic, a local restaurant group that also operates a food hall downtown. Outside the main structure is a performance stage, and 10 retail standalone shipping containers scattered throughout the site. Beljan says everything was designed to have a cohesive look and feel, even when they’re not connected, and that lighting, music and live entertainment will add to the ambience.
“Our goal is to have Station Park activated all year round, even in the winter. We have to embrace that we’re a winter city, and we just need to provide some heat sources and do what we can to keep people outside even during the cold months.”
Despite the many vacancies throughout Edmonton, Beljan is optimistic about this new concept. “It’s a busy world out there and getting people’s attention is difficult,” Beljan says. “I think we have a unique product that allows businesses to try something without too much financial pressure. We want to keep it fresh, we want our vendors to rotate, we want people to know that when you come to Station Park, there’s going to be new offerings every time. Hopefully people will want to continue to come back and see what’s new there.”