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Five more downtown Calgary office towers to be converted to residential homes

Click to play video: 'Five more downtown Calgary office towers to be converted to residential homes'
Five more downtown Calgary office towers to be converted to residential homes
WATCH: As part of the City of Calgary's plan to revitalize the downtown core, five more office towers are set to begin residential conversion projects. As Adam MacVicar reports, it brings the total conversions under the city's incentive program to 10. – Apr 19, 2023

Five more office buildings in downtown Calgary will soon be transformed into homes as part of the city’s strategy to revamp and revitalize the core.

The five projects will receive $36.3 million in funding through the city’s Downtown Development Incentive Program, which is one piece of the overall multi-pronged downtown strategy.

The program offers qualifying developers up to $75 per square foot for conversion projects, with a limit of $15 million per project, that will be paid out only when the project is completed.

The combined projects will eliminate nearly 500,000 square feet of office space in the core to make way for 530 new units.

Mayor Jyoti Gondek and the City of Calgary’s Downtown Strategy director Thom Mahler announced the latest round of conversion incentive recipients on Wednesday at a downtown revitalization open house on Stephen Avenue.

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“Converting office space into homes is an absolutely bold move and a major show of confidence into the future of our downtown and the future of our city,” Gondek said.

The five projects announced Wednesday include:

  • Taylor Building (805 8 Avenue SW) – Cressey Developments
  • Petro Fina Building (736 8 Avenue SW) – People First Development Company
  • Eau Claire Place I (525 3 Avenue SW) – Cidex Group of Companies
  • Eau Claire Place II (521 3 Avenue SW) – Pacific Reach Properties
  • The Loft (744 4 Avenue SW) – Institutional Mortgage Capital

Peoplefirst Developments is among the developers taking part in the latest round of conversion projects, which will mark its second office-to-residential conversion project in the city’s core as part of the incentive program.

The company’s director, Max Olshevsky, said the city’s incentive program makes the challenging task of converting office space into homes more viable for developers.

“It would be very difficult to undertake projects like these conversions without the municipal support,” Olshevsky told Global News. “That support comes in two ways, not only through the incentive… but also through the expedited permitting process.”

Rendering of Peoplefirst Developments’ office conversion project at the Petro Fina Building
Rendering of Peoplefirst Developments’ office conversion project at the Petro Fina Building. Supplied: City of Calgary

Olshevsky said the plan for Peoplefirst’s latest project is to build functional space that resemble high-end condos with half of the building’s units at below-market rate, which he referred to as “attainable luxury.”

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According to Gondek, the city is “well on its way” to meeting its goal of converting six million square feet of downtown office space through the incentive program since its inception in 2021.

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Wednesday’s announcement brings the total number of office-to-residential conversion projects through the program to 10; there are also two other conversion projects that weren’t supported by the fund.

So far, close to 1.35 million square feet of office space is committed to be converted into 1,420 homes.

“For these 10 projects with a municipal investment of $86 million provided by the city for the conversion program, we have generated private sector investment of $189 million,” Gondek said. “That’s market confidence that saw more than double our investment come from real estate partners.”

According to Maher, the city’s goal of converting six million square feet of downtown office space is to help reduce the vacancy rate downtown, in turn increasing the property value of the remaining office space after a hollowing out during the last economic downturn.

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“The residential is one piece but we’ve also expanded the program now for hotels, arts and culture space and public post-secondaries,” Mahler said.

With the goal of having more Calgarians and families move to the downtown core, Mahler said there is a focus on improving amenities in the area.

Mark Garner, executive director at the Calgary Downtown Association said the association is keeping an eye on opportunities for amenities, especially in the west end of the core, where many of the conversions are taking place.

“We need additional park space, community centers, dentists and other amenities that those people that are going to be living in that area are going to need to have in the very near future,” Garner said.

The next step is to secure continued funding for the $153 million conversion incentive program.

Click to play video: 'Inflation, investment and promoting diversity: Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek looks back at 2022'
Inflation, investment and promoting diversity: Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek looks back at 2022

Mahler said there are four more projects that are in the approvals process and the program is close to having all of its money allocated.

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“We’re definitely getting close to running out of money,” Mahler said. “That’s why we have requests with the provincial government and we’re working with the federal government on other avenues for funding.”

Neither the province nor the federal government included funding for Calgary’s downtown revitalization efforts in their latest budgets.

The City of Calgary is hosting an open house at the Alberta Hotel Building on Stephen Avenue from April 19 to 21 to provide more information about the office-to-residential conversions and other efforts to revitalize the city’s downtown core.

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