The groups behind a project in downtown Calgary aimed at turning a vacant office building into affordable housing is asking people in the city for help.
Sierra Place, located at 706 7 Ave. S.W., sat vacant for two years before HomeSpace and Inn from the Cold took over the building with the aim of creating 82 affordable housing units.
The two non-profits have been able to raise three-quarters of the $30-million cost thanks to corporate, anonymous and government sponsorship, including $5.5 million from the City of Calgary.
Bernadette Majdell with the HomeSpace Society is now looking for support financing the remaining $6.5 million.
“We’re hoping the Calgary community will come together,” Majdell said.
“(The funds) will turn this office building into a hub supporting vulnerable families for years to come.”
Along with housing, Inn from the Cold’s executive director Heather Morley said the 10-storey building will also house a number of programs for those in need.
“There will be an emergency shelter, transitional housing and child care,” Morley said. “We’re also looking at a social enterprise employment training café.”
On Thursday, the project was opened up to the media for a tour of the ongoing work.
The site was originally chosen because of its location and proximity to the CTrain, as well as its electrical and plumbing layout.
Officials hope to see families moving in by September 2022.
Bruce Irvine, Calgary’s manager of affordable housing, was on hand Thursday to show support for the project.
He said the Sierra Place project is a great opportunity to move forward in the city’s strategy to revitalize the downtown core.
“(The project) will help convert some of our older office buildings and help increase the overall residential component downtown,” Irvine said. “That will help us reduce some of the downtown vacancy rates that are currently challenging us.”
Majdell added that there has been an extensive community outreach program throughout the project’s development and that many neighbourhood businesses have offered to partner with the groups.
“We need to bring life back into our (downtown) core. Having empty office buildings is not good for the city,” Majdell said.
Morley addressed possible concerns about the location of the building being downtown.
“We will have staff 24/7 in the building, child care on the main floor — it will be a really vibrant, bustling, positive family-friendly place,” Morley said.
“When you have that mix of businesses and kids and child care and families, it makes the entire area safer.”
The groups will work with other agencies to determine which families will live in the space closer to the September target.
Working from home and living in offices: Calgary’s affordable solution for vacancy problems
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