City announces two more downtown office-to-residential conversion projects approved for funding
Downtown Calgary Development Incentive Program reopens
The City of Calgary is pleased to announce two more successful applicants to the Downtown Calgary Development Incentive Program. These two projects will convert empty office space into new homes in an area of the Downtown Core that has one of the highest office vacancy rates across the city. It’s one way we’re moving beyond the traditional 9 to 5 business district towards a vibrant city centre, with a balanced mix of residential, office, retail, entertainment, tourism and culture. The two projects announced today are:
· United Place (808 4 Avenue S.W.) – United Canadian Investment Inc.
· Canadian Centre (833 4 Avenue S.W.) – PBA Group of Companies
"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. The United Place and Canadian Centre projects are located on the same block of 4 Avenue S.W. and will bring new residents and vibrancy to the area. These projects are in close proximity to McDougall Centre Park, the 7 Street S.W. cycle track, the recently developed West Eau Claire Park and Eau Claire Promenade, along with the soon to be redesigned 8 Street S.W.
“These two projects will bring new life back into largely empty or underutilized buildings by converting empty office space to new residential units,” said Councillor Terry Wong, whose ward includes the Downtown core. “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. These two projects, along with a previously announced project, will help transform the Downtown West and Eau Claire neighbourhoods into key destinations for Calgarians and visitors alike as part of the Downtown Strategy.”
These two projects have been approved to receive, upon completion of construction, ~$18.4 million from the $100 million fund approved by Council in 2021. These two projects are expected to remove ~251,000 square feet of office space from the market and create an estimated 306 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. Both projects are aiming to start construction in spring 2023 and be completed in 2024.
United Place (808 4 Avenue S.W.)
The United Place project is a conversion of approximately 88,000 square feet of office space to 81 homes, featuring a mix of studio, one, two and three bedroom units. The building is adjacent to the Eau Claire and Downtown West residential areas and the Eau Claire Promenade, Peace Bridge,West Eau Claire Park and the 7 Street SW cycle track, providing an abundance of natural recreation opportunities right at the building’s doorstep. In addition, this 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,” says Sarbjeet Sahota, CEO with United Canadian Investment Inc. “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.)
The Canadian Centre project is a conversion of an estimated 163,000 square feet of office space, into a residential tower. The project will offer a combination of fully furnished apartments and short-term rental units that provide a range of housing options. The building’s office space would be converted to 225 new homes, along with several amenities to serve the residential units. This includes 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,” says James Scott, VP of Corporate Development, PBA Group of Companies. “PBA’s commitment to the long-term success of Calgary and the city’s prosperity is built into our core values; after all, we’ve been in business in Calgary for 57 years. We are proud to partner with the City of Calgary through the Downtown Calgary Development Incentive Program. Calgary is leading Alberta’s economic evolution, and provision of flexible housing options to service workforces in the technology, health care, post-secondary education and energy sectors are needed.”
Downtown Calgary Development Incentive Program funding to date
These five projects will remove ~665,000 square feet of office space from the market and create 707 homes.
Downtown Calgary Development Incentive Program – Phase 1 Re-Open and Phase 2 in Expression of Interest Stage
With today’s announcements, The City has finalized approval of five projects for funding and have three other projects in the final stages of approval as part of the first round of applicants. It is anticipated further announcements will be made later this summer. Three projects initially considered for the grant program will no longer be proceeding, resulting in approximately $27 million remaining from the $100 million fund. The first phase of the Downtown Calgary Development Incentive Program will re-open for applications from July 15, 2022 to September 9, 2022 and will continue to focus on office to residential conversion, with a priority placed on the Downtown Core, which currently has the greatest level of office vacancy in the Greater downtown.
The program continues to offer a grant for office to residential conversions of $75 per square foot, based on the original gross building area of existing office space that will be converted. The City continues to be able to approve grants up to a maximum of $10 million per property; any amounts in excess of $10 million will require City Council approval. Further information about the program and 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 City’s 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. These five projects are a great start and we are committed to working with developers to continue to repurpose empty office space and revitalize our Downtown Core.”
The City is also launching an expression of interest (EOI) for Phase 2 of the Downtown Calgary Development Incentive Program that will expand the focus beyond solely residential use to consider other types of office conversions. Possible conversion types could include hotels, institutional uses, laboratories, cultural spaces and neighborhood amenities, among others. The purpose of the EOI is to get a sense from building owners and developers on what other types of projects are currently being considered so that Phase 2 of the Program can best enable redevelopment to occur. The EOI can be found at calgary.ca/downtownincentives.