A look inside Edmonton's Rossdale power plant

“It’s pretty neat,” admits Geoff Wagner, standing in the middle of what was once the city’s primary plower plant. 

“It’s the scale; it’s things like these panels; and, really, this was the source of Edmonton’s power for a really long time, says Wagner, Epcor’s senior manager of project development.

“This site started in 1891. Until the ’70s this was all the power for Edmonton,” he says.

The Rossdale plant grew along with the city’s electricity needs and, during all five expansions, architect Maxwell Dewar matched everything for a uniform look, including the brick work. 

Come along on a tour inside the historic Rossdale Power Plant in Edmonton, Alta. 3:26

“Even to the point where the technology changed from riveted to rolled steel, they used riveted steel throughout the building to maintain that look,” Wagner said.

In 2001, the 50,000-square-foot main plant and two other buildings were designated provincial historic resources, a status that did not apply to the newer portion of the power plant which was decommissioned and demolished between 2010 and 2012, he said. 

Since then there’s been a lot of talk about what to do with the remaining space.

David Johnston, principal heritage planner, says the city approved $6 million towards rehabilitation work to the Rossdale plant. (Adrienne Lamb/CBC)

“People see this space and their minds are kind of blown, they’re like, ‘Wow, think of what we could do with this,'” said David Johnston, the city’s principal heritage planner. 

“People are talking about food markets, and arts and culture sort of things. Could you put residential or office in there? There’s any number of opportunities people are thinking about.” 

The city is assessing the building’s condition and working on a conservation plan.

Workers take a break from working on an addition to the Rossdale power plant between 1906 and 1908. (Edmonton Power Historical Foundation)

“We have about $6 million in capital money that’s been approved by city council to start making some rehabilitation work to the structure,” Johnston said.

“Some of it isn’t super exciting stuff. It’s roof repairs and some of those sorts of things, but it’s going to allow us to get people back into the building.”

You can see more from inside the Rossdale power plant on Saturday at 10 a.m., Sunday at noon and Monday at 11 a.m. on CBC TV and CBC GEM.  

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