City announces first three downtown office-to-residential conversion projects approved for funding
The City of Calgary is pleased to announce the first three successful applicants to the Downtown Calgary Development Incentive Program. These three projects will infuse life into largely empty or underutilized office buildings by converting empty office space to new residential units. It’s one way we’re moving beyond the traditional 9 to 5 business district towards a vibrant city centre people enjoy 24/7, with a balanced mix of residential, office, retail, entertainment, tourism and culture. The first three approved projects of the Downtown Calgary Development Incentive Program are:
· Palliser One (125 9 Avenue SE) – Aspen Properties
· 205 9 Avenue SE – Cidex Group of Companies
· 909 5 Avenue SW – Peoplefirst Developments
"Calgary's success relies on our downtown shifting to a place where people want to live, and where businesses want to set up shop, now and for decades to come," said Mayor Jyoti Gondek. "These three projects are supporting the shift to move beyond the traditional office-based central business district to becoming a dynamic centre of our city with welcoming neighbourhoods, active streets, and well-used public spaces."
These three projects have been approved to receive, upon completion of construction, ~$31 million from the $100 million fund approved by Council in 2021. These three projects are expected to remove ~414,000 square feet of office space from the market and create an estimated 401 homes. The estimated grant amounts are all based upon $75 per square foot of office space being converted to living space with final amounts to be confirmed and disbursed at project completion.
Creating homes in these buildings will help bring new life to downtown areas that have largely been quiet, as office space has sat empty for the past several years. The Palliser One and 205 9 Avenue SE projects are located across the street from each other, creating the beginnings of a residential ‘hub’ at a critical intersection of 9 Avenue SE and 1 Street SE within the Civic District. These projects are in close proximity to the new Arts Commons Transformation, Olympic Plaza, the soon-to-be renovated Glenbow Museum/JR Shaw Centre for Arts and Culture, and a redesigned Stephen Avenue. People living in this location will also benefit from the pathways and parks in the East Village, shopping and restaurants in Victoria Park, and the Cultural & Entertainment District.
The 909 5 Avenue SW project will bring life to an office building, which has sat vacant for nearly 10 years. The project will provide attainable, family-oriented housing options in Calgary’s downtown core, with the majority of homes being two and three-bedroom layouts. The developer, Peoplefirst, is providing 40 per cent of units at 20 per cent less than current market value. The project is also in close proximity to the recently upgraded park and pathway space in downtown’s west end – West Eau Claire Park and the Eau Claire Promenade, along with future planned improvements to the pedestrian realm along 8 Street SW.
“The Palliser One and 205 9 Avenue conversions will bring people, liveliness and vibrancy to the east side of downtown as The City and its downtown partners embark on major vibrancy building initiatives in the area,” said Thom Mahler, director of The City’s Downtown Strategy business unit. “Additionally, the 909 5 Avenue SW conversion brings much needed affordable housing to the downtown core and the developer is partnering with various social organizations to ensure these homes are available to those in need.”
Palliser One (125 9 Avenue SE)
The Palliser One project is a conversion of approximately 200,000 square feet of office space to 176 apartments, featuring a mix of one- and two-bedrooms. In addition, this project will include an amenity lounge located midway through the building, providing residents with a modern common floor featuring games areas, a workspace area, a kitchen/bar area, lounge seating, and an outdoor BBQ space, as well as a rooftop patio.
“The conversion of Palliser One is more than transforming vacant office space into residential units; it will be a catalyst for creating a more exciting mixed-use, residentially focused complex in Palliser Square – right in the heart of downtown Calgary,” said Rob Blackwell, Chief Operating Officer, Aspen Properties. “We believe this project, and others like it, will greatly enhance vibrancy in our downtown and the overall brand of our city, as we work together to attract and retain talent and businesses.”
205 9 Avenue SE
The 205 9 Avenue SE project is a conversion of an estimated 110,000 square feet of vacant office space, into a mixed-use residential tower. The building’s office space would be converted to 113 new homes, along with a full floor of amenities to serve the residential units.
“Cidex is thrilled to be a part of this revitalization project. We look forward to the new life this will inject into underutilized properties in the core,” said Sarah Itani, business development manager with Cidex Group of Companies. “The Downtown Calgary Development Incentive Program is a prime example of the excellent work that can be done when the public and private sector team up in pursuit of a shared goal.”
909 5 Avenue SW
The 909 5 Avenue SW project is a conversion of ~104,000 square feet of office space, into a mixed-use residential tower. The final building will include approximately 112 pet-friendly apartments across eight floors. The main floor will include retail and amenities for residents and the surrounding community, while the second floor will be built out into a coworking space for small businesses – supporting entrepreneurs, and residents in the area.
“We are honoured to be able to participate in the revitalization of downtown Calgary. Our project is about bringing life back to an underutilized central location by transforming spaces for residents and businesses in the area to thrive," says Maxim Olshevsky, Managing Director, Peoplefirst Developments. “Through attainable housing, support for local businesses, and our collaboration with nonprofit organizations, we are working towards improving the lives of Calgarian’s through socially responsible development. We are proud to partner with the City of Calgary through the Downtown Calgary Development Incentive Program to bring vibrancy back to downtown.”
The three conversion projects have a mix of residential units ranging from studio suites to three bedroom, plus den suites, helping to diversify the residential stock in Calgary’s downtown. Collectively, the conversion projects help to support downtown living through all phases of life.
Residential conversion projects are complex and expensive, making it very difficult to balance the surplus of office space in our downtown. The City’s investment in the Downtown Calgary Development Incentive Program has made office-to-residential conversion possible in Calgary’s downtown.
One year ago, in April 2021, City Council approved Calgary’s Greater Downtown Plan, as well as an initial investment package to support the implementation of the Downtown Strategy, including a focus on incentives for office conversions. The City worked in collaboration with industry experts including Calgary Economic Development’s Real Estate Sector Advisory Committee to develop the Program to support downtown building owners considering converting vacant office space to other uses. In July 2021, The City officially established the Downtown Calgary Development Incentive Program and opened the program for applications in August 2021.
The City has finalized approval of the three initial projects for funding. Two other projects are in the final stages of approval as part of the first round of applicants, and it is anticipated further announcements will be made in the coming weeks. The City is currently working with waitlisted applicants for the remaining funds and as applications are approved, further announcements will be made throughout the summer.
The City is currently working through details of a Phase 2 of the Downtown Calgary Development Incentive Program to continue encouraging office conversion projects in our downtown.
Further information about the Downtown Calgary Incentive Program can be found at calgary.ca/downtownincentives.