Final fundraising stretch for conversion of old Calgary office building into affordable housing

CALGARY –

After being stripped right down to its concrete walls, the work to turn an old office building in Calgary into affordable housing is well underway.

The Sierra Place building on the corner of 7th Ave and 6th St. SW sat vacant for nearly two years, but come this time next year, the space will reopen as a family emergency shelter, childcare centre and 82 units of affordable housing.

“For us, this project is critical for our city. We can see what’s happening in our downtown core and many of our vulnerable individuals and families are in and around the downtown core,” said Bernadette Majdell, the CEO of HomeSpace.

“The transformation of this space will be similar to the transformation of the lives of the families we serve as they move in less than a year from now,” she said.

The $30 million project is a partnership between HomeSpace, Inn from the Cold and the City of Calgary. Most of the project’s cost has been covered by the city, corporate partners and private donors — but the group needs $6.5 million to finish off construction.

The demand for emergency housing and affordable housing has increased in Calgary recently, the group says, with Inn from the Cold helping 1,611 family members last year, including 967 children.

“We see it every day in our shelter. Families coming to us for various reasons: financial crisis, personal crisis, health crisis,” said Heather Morley with Inn from the Cold.

The Sierra Place building on the corner of 7th Ave and 6th St. SW sat vacant for nearly two years, but come this time next year, the space will reopen as a family emergency shelter, childcare centre and 82 units of affordable housing.

“We don’t want full shelters. The last place a child should ever be is in a shelter. So, a project like this… we’re standing in what will eventually be a three-bedroom apartment,” she said.

The conversion also helps tackle another of Calgary’s issues: a high downtown office vacancy rate that is reaching 30 per cent.

“It’s part of the larger downtown strategy, which council passed just this past year. We’ve created a number of incentive programs to help encourage more residential construction and conversion from buildings downtown,” said Bruce Irvine, the city’s manager of affordable housing.

You can find out more information about the project and donate online here.

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