Union Bank Inn

The Inn turns 20

Union Bank Inn

Diane Kyle-Buchanan knew a good building when she saw one. She liked the Union Bank Building, one of the few early 20th century buildings remaining downtown.

Built in 1910 and designed by notable architect Roland Lines, its provenance included the Canadian Realty Company, James Richardson and Sons Ltd., Cunard Steamship Co and the North-West Trust Company; it’s now listed on the register of Canada’s historic places.

But, it was a shadow of its former self when Diane bought it.

In 1997 the Union Bank Inn, opened, Edmonton’s first modern boutique hotel, restored and refurbished to much more than its former glory.

Hotelier Shelley Klein, asked to be part of the project early on, felt then that the original property was a bit too small for her to be able to make much of an impact.

When she learned of the expansion plans (the new addition, opened in 2000) Shelley thought ‘this is something I can help build into a going concern’. In 2003 Shelley and her husband Wes partnered with Diane in the hotel.

Shelley operates the hotel and her husband takes care of the building. “It’s not your typical hotel; the addition and the original hotel are integrated buildings,” says Shelley, explaining that the upkeep is more complicated than for a standard build. There is also the ethos of the hotel. “Diane’s vision was of a hotel like the ones she preferred to stay in—small, personal, luxurious and not part of a massive chain.”

“Our hotel is romantic,” says Shelley. “We have so many repeat guests. People say, ‘I got married here; I got engaged here. I’m coming for my 15th anniversary.’ Madison’s has been part of so many engagements over the years. We feel as though we are part of significant events in their lives.

“Our biggest challenge (and our biggest strength) is that we are not branded,” says Shelley. “We have to take great care, we have to offer better value, a better location. Yet there are guests who seek us out because we are not a chain experience.”

Madison’s Grill, the main floor dining room, is an oasis of calm and elegance, a little gem, seating 75. Guests breakfast here (it’s a great spot for a business breakfast too) and it’s a popular downtown lunch and dinner haven. Chef Trevor Johnston’s well-executed contemporary menu stars local beef and lamb as well as in-season west coast fish.

“Our big news this year?  We are removing the Giverny Ballroom to create six additional guest rooms,” says Shelley.

“These rooms will have beautiful high ceilings, fireplaces, grand freestanding showers and a view of the park. Our special UBI 20th Anniversary rate ($179) includes complementary wine and cheese in the room, a full breakfast and a $20 food credit for Madison’s Grill.

“ Enjoy everything Edmonton has to offer this summer, all in the heart of downtown. Makes for a great staycation!

“We keep evolving and refreshing,” says Shelley. “I’m so proud of our team and our inn and being able to offer a different, more personal experience for our guests.”