Courtesy of HomeSpace
June 24, 2021 | Natalie Noble
Sierra Place office-to-affordable-housing conversion aims to set high standard for downtown revitalization projects
The conversion of Sierra Place, the downtown office tower that formerly housed Dome Petroleum, into 82 affordable housing units is set to increase vibrancy in Calgary's core.
"In terms of revitalizing downtown Calgary, we need people," said HomeSpace CEO Bernadette Majdell. "And we need energy and infrastructure to support that."
HomeSpace, a non-profit real estate developer and property management organization, is tackling this challenge head on.
"When we invite companies to move head offices to Calgary and we want to generate that activity in the core, we really need a wide range of residential, all the way from market up to affordable, to do that," said Majdell.
The project's $28.5-million price tag will be covered through a combination of debt financing, government funds and private donors.
"Cost management is key," said Majdell. "As the first project, versus some of the market buildings that will have a much bigger budget, it's important to demonstrate that we can do this in a really cost-sensitive way."
The project is one of the first initiatives within the City of Calgary's Greater Downtown Plan
to bring more residents into the downtown core. It also addresses a critical need for affordable housing in the area.
"When we invite companies to move head offices to Calgary and we want to generate that activity in the core, we really need a wide range of residential, all the way from market up to affordable, to do that." - Bernadette Majdell, HomeSpace CEO
"It really opens up a whole range of housing options for people and families who need it," said Majdell. "As an organization, we think it's important to do the right thing, not only for the people we serve, but for our city as well."
As HomeSpace aims to set a high bar for other revitalization projects in the core, it has made it a priority to complete the Sierra Place conversion within 12 months.
"We have the plan in place and given the Greater Downtown Plan and where we're at in this city, it's important to execute quickly in a project like this, so people can see what success looks like," said Majdell. "We should be welcoming new residents next summer."
While the building came under contract in November of last year, the sale officially closed May 4. This gave the company plenty of runway to tackle fundraising requirements and planning, including due diligence around hazardous materials testing and energy modeling to respect today's sustainability requirements.
"We're changing out our entire exterior of the building, putting on a new skin and ensuring all these work efforts have a good return on investment," said Majdell.
"In early June, we'll be spending a few months on the demo, starting on the 10th
floor and working our way down. The next critical step will be around the exterior to get it done through nice weather, moving into interior work coming into the fall and rebuilding everything back up."
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