An eruption of European architecture in Edmonton
By: Corbin Stewart
A brand-new strip mall is set to open up its first business this month – but this isn’t your ordinary strip mall. Manchester Square is inspired by iconic European architecture and aims to host 19 local businesses along its 57,000 square foot location. The former warehouse building began its transformation into the European-style retail development in 2018. Along with its old-timey buildings, an outdoor fountain and long promenade is featured in the main courtyard.
It is located at 107 Avenue and 120 Street in the older neighbourhood of Queen Mary Park.
Tucked away in Manchester Square is a hidden indoor alleyway featuring two hand-painted murals by local artist Alixandra Jade. On the west side of the retail development is a vibrant floral mural. The east side mural features “The Lady of Manchester Square,” whose face is partially visible, hidden by an array of pink flowers and large butterflies.
“There’s a lot of factors you have to put in. You have to take in the community, take in the building, and take in what the client wants,” says Jade. “The murals add a unique and personal touch.”
Behind Manchester Square is 76 Group Co., a local retail development company specializing in revamping old Edmonton buildings. In March, they held a contest for local artists to decide who would be commissioned to paint the murals – which was won by Jade. Both murals have become very popular for local Instagram photos, something that makes Jade very proud.
“We were floored. People were swarmed around taking photos. I just never expected that,” says Jade.
Manchester Square has become a trendy place for Tik Tok posts, modeling shoots, wedding photos, and professional photographers in general. Hundreds of people walk by the complex every day to take photos.
“It feels like you’re in Europe without actually being in Europe,” says photographer Busra Yildirim. “The architectural style gives off a different vibe.”
There has been some backlash against the new retail development, with some residents calling it “tacky” and a “monstrosity.”
“Everyone has a right to have comments. And if they don’t want to be here, they don’t have to be,” said 76 Group Co. CEO Anton Morgulis to CTV.
Others believe that Manchester Square’s distinctive style is a welcome addition to Edmonton’s downtown community, giving off flair and elegance.
“The amount of work and effort that went into the design is very complex,” says Yildirim. “It’s just a beautiful place.
Arcadia Brewing is the first business set to open in Manchester Square. They are conducting final inspections but hope to open in the next two weeks, they said in an email. Two other spaces are currently leased on the website, but the businesses are unknown.
With many travel restrictions in place due to COVID, Manchester Square offers a quick European getaway for local residents. Jade says that the retail complex is important to Edmontonians because of its uniqueness and mix of European architecture with local art.
“People need something like this. It’s brought so much joy.”