Calgary creating housing by funding office building conversions

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Ontario Construction News staff writer

City of Calgary officials have announced two more downtown office buildings that will be repurposed into residential housing as part of the Downtown Calgary Development Incentive Program.

The program, announced last summer, aims to restore life into largely empty or underutilized office buildings with $100 million focused on supporting downtown building owners in the conversion of vacant office space to residential uses.

The City of Calgary approved the first three projects last April:

  • Palliser One, located at 125 Ninth Avenue S.E. (Aspen Properties);
  • HAT @ Arts Common, located at 205 Ninth Avenue S.E. (Cidex Group of Companies); and
  • 909 Fifth Avenue S.W. (Peoplefirst Developments).

“The Downtown Calgary Incentive Program is a critical part of our revitalization strategy,” said Mayor Jyoti Gondek. “These two additional office to residential projects will create much needed homes and amenities which are key components to attract more people into our inner city communities.”

Creating homes in these buildings will help bring new life to the west end of the Downtown Core, an area that has the greatest amount of empty office space in Calgary’s downtown.

“These two projects will bring new life back into largely empty or underutilized buildings by converting empty office space to new residential units,” said downtown councillor Terry Wong. “Added vibrancy in west end of our downtown, an area that has considerable vacancy and that is traditionally dominated by office buildings, goes a long way in making Calgary safer for everyone at all hours of the day and enables our local businesses to thrive within complete communities.”

The two projects will receive, upon completion of construction, about  $18.4 million from the $100 million fund and are expected to remove more than 251,000 square feet of office space from the market and create an estimated 306 homes.

United Place (808 4 Avenue S.W.)

  • a conversion of approximately 88,000 square feet of office space to 81 homes, featuring a mix of units
  • project will include a café with an outdoor plaza seating area, a community flex space, a rooftop patio, fitness room, an in-house daycare, and a parkade, with EV charging stations for bikes and cars

“United Canadian Investment Inc. is excited to transform this property located at such a prominent corner of the west end of downtown into a residential building and to offer a great mix of residential units, and community amenities like a daycare, café and outdoor plaza space,” said Sarbjeet Sahota, CEO. “We are also exploring an exciting variety of sustainable features that will include EV charging stations for bikes and electric cars.”

Canadian Centre (833 4 Avenue S.W.)

  • conversion of an estimated 163,000 square feet of office space, into a residential tower with 225 new homes, a main floor café and patio, bicycle parking and repair facilities, a second floor restaurant and gathering area, along with outdoor gathering spaces on the 10-12 floors.

“PBA is honoured to contribute to such a meaningful revitalization program that will bring life back to an area of our city that has no doubt felt its challenges. Our proposed development will offer rental apartments as well as fully furnished units with flexible rental terms intended to significantly reduce or eliminate many costs associated with new entrants into the housing market, while also meeting a need for additional housing within the downtown core,” said James Scott, VP of corporate development, PBA Group of Companies.

These five projects will remove ~665,000 square feet of office space from the market and create 707 homes.

There is about $27 million remaining from the $100 million fund and applications will be accepted from Jul. 15 to Sept. 9. The application process can be found at calgary.ca/downtownincentives.

“The first phase of our program has been extremely successful so far, with ongoing interest from developers being high,” said Thom Mahler, director of the downtown strategy business unit. “We have estimated that approximately six million square feet of office space needs to be removed from the market to help address downtown office vacancy and stabilize downtown office property values over the next decade.”

Calgary is also launching an expression of interest (EOI), expanding the focus to consider other types of office conversions such as hotels, institutional uses, laboratories, cultural spaces and neighborhood amenities.

 

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