Conversion of empty Calgary office tower to affordable housing set to begin

The first conversion of an empty downtown Calgary office tower to affordable housing is set to start.

Sierra Place, at Seventh Avenue and Sixth Street S.W., will house six floors of affordable housing for vulnerable populations, with an additional four floors set aside for shelter, transitional and support services. 

The project is a collaboration between Inn From the Cold and the HomeSpace Society. 

“Sierra Place marks the first time a vacant office tower in Calgary has been converted into affordable housing,” said Bernadette Majdell, CEO of HomeSpace, in a news release.

“Nearly one out of every three office towers in our city’s core are sitting empty, at the same time that Calgary is in desperate need of 15,000 affordable homes. This project makes sense, and in just over a year, nearly 200 Calgarians will have a place to call home, in a prime location with easy access to transit and essential amenities.”

The tower has sat vacant for several years, one of several empty or underutilized buildings in a downtown core with vacancy around 30 per cent. 

The $28.5-million project is supported financially by different levels of government, including $5.5 million from the city.

That money is part of $200 million in initial funding announced for the city’s downtown strategy that aims to remove approximately six million square feet of office space from the market to tackle the vacancy issue and bring more people into the core. 

In total, the city plan calls for $1 billion to be spent over the next 10 years. 

It’s anticipated the Sierra Place project will be complete by fall of 2022 and will include 82 units with a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom units for approximately 180 Calgarians. 

“As our city emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever that non-profits come together and use creativity to solve problems,” said Heather Morley, executive director of Inn from the Cold in a news release.

“Inn from the Cold and HomeSpace are working together on this first-of-its-kind project that will not only build community in an innovative way but also fully support families on their journey to independence.” 

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