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Sep 22, 2015
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Ivan Beljan is turning old building into new jewels, old strip malls into new hubs, and forgotten back alleys into new shopping areas.

Little wonder Beljan is known as Edmonton’s most innovative developer.

He was born to construction. He is from the north side of Edmonton, the son of a Croatian immigrant, Ante Beljan, who spent his life as a construction concrete specialist, with his son hearing all about it and sometimes working odd jobs at various sites.

His father worked long hours and always told his son, “If you don’t go to school, you’re going to end up in construction.”

But even as a kid, his son was always looking at buildings and trying to figure out if they could be built differently or better.

“I always re-imagined things,” he says.

Full article:
Back alley boom: Why some Edmonton businesses are starting to look past main street

Amy and Jeff Nachtigall opened Sugared & Spiced in an alleyway just off Whyte in September.

When Jeff and Amy Nachtigall started the hunt for a storefront for their popular cake business, they wanted something pedestrian-friendly and community-oriented.

Soon, they were looking past main streets, and scoping out back alleys instead.

This September, they opened Sugared & Spiced in a laneway tucked in behind Whyte Avenue. The new shop is a short walk from not just Whyte, but Gateway Boulevard and the farmer’s market, which Jeff says has been a winning recipe.

“People are at first surprised that there’s a business here, but then they walk in,” he said. The goal, he said, has been to make it look like the store has always been there, prompting details like high-end countertops and exposed brick.

“It’s working well for us,” Jeff said. “We love it.”

Their bakery is one of a handful of back alley businesses that have sprung up in Old Strathcona in the last couple of years. The storefronts have been driven by Beljan Development, the company behind the neighbouring Crawford Block at Gateway and 83 Avenue, which offers micro apartments and no car parking.

The Holy Roller restaurant recently opened at ground level, and has doors leading out the back, across from Sugared & Spiced.
Back alley shops changing the face of storefronts in Edmonton
The Old Strathcona Business Association says the introduction of back alley storefronts in Edmonton is breaking the rules of how back alleys in the city are perceived.

Two retail shops have opened in the back alleys along Whyte Avenue in recent months – Holy Roller and bake shop Sugared and Spiced.

“It’s really exciting because we’re seeing our back alleys being used in a very different way,” said Cherie Klassen, executive director of the Old Strathcona Business Association.

“Typically your back alleys are dark. They’re not very nice to walk down. There’s big garbage bins everywhere. [Now] the opportunities are endless in terms of people walking down back alleys more. I think it also just changes the way people think about what a storefront can be.”

Ivan Beljan of Beljan Developments Ltd. is behind the development of both stores. He was first introduced to back alley storefronts during his honeymoon seven years ago in Melbourne, Australia.


Sugared and Spiced opened in September 2017.
Julia Wong/Global News

“We’re on their main street. All of a sudden, we turned this corner and there was this alleyway with a buzz of activity in there,” he said.

“It was such a neat experience. It’s a different urban experience in an alley. You’re sandwiched between two buildings so it’s far more intimate.”

Beljan said the idea stuck with him, and he soon found himself wanting to bring that same experience to Edmonton.

“I just think we lack special places. As a city, we’ve grown fairly big. We have a lot of retail centres and box stores but we don’t really have these gems of areas. That’s one thing I’d love to see more of in this city,” he said.
I generally like it -- at least the concept of it -- with the exception of the hemorrhoid-inducing concrete slabs pictured in Ren-2. There could also be more plant groupings and varied street furniture. Also Ren-2 has a bit of an Escher-like perspective quality to it
Beautiful -- eliminated my one-time parking space behind what-was-then Strathcona TV. I hope they use permeable pavement so that the trees have a fighting chance of existing (showing my "Master Gardener" badge). The concept is great for Strathcona, the Farmers' Market, the Live Theatre Realm, the ERRS, and the Strat revitalization. Five Stars *****
^ Looking this over again, I really wish they’d carry the treatment north past 83rd, down the alley between the Arts Barns and Dr. Wilbert McIntyre Park/Strathcona Library too. I know that alley has none of the retail that the alley between Whyte/83rd has, but with the Orange Hall and all the entrances into the Arts Barn situated along it, coupled with it acting as a pseudo sidewalk and being heavily regulated anyways in regards to vehicle traffic most summers thanks to all the festivals going on, it’d seem a decent idea, I think.