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Calgary's 'The Cornerstone' office-to-residential building nears completion

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A new office-to-residential building conversion is nearing completion on the west end of Downtown Calgary as it's set to kick-start a new era of affordable housing opportunities.

Astra Living’s ‘The Cornerstone’ building located on 909 5 Avenue S.W., is scheduled to open its doors in the first quarter of 2024 when it will begin welcoming new tenants.

On Friday, CTV News was able to get a sneak peek of the 112,000-square-foot building which formerly housed offices for SNC Lavalin. It features 112 total suites with balconies over 10 floors, of which 80 will be two-bedroom units and 32 will be three-bedroom units.

The conversion is partially funded by the city's Downtown Calgary Development Incentive Program. Under the program, People First Developments will be reimbursed $7.8 million upon completion of the project, with the total conversion budgeted to cost $38 million.

Maxim Olshevsky, managing director of People First Developments in the Astra Group of Companies says a large majority of the units will be sold below market costs.

The monthly rental price of a unit has yet to be determined.

"So right now, a total of 40 per cent of the units will be 20 per cent below market rents in this building and this is the initiative we're planning to carry on with all of our other developments so we’re on track for that," he said.

Each unit features independent heating and cooling, in-suite laundry, eight-foot ceilings, finished cabinets and eco-friendly appliances.

Mayor Jyoti Gondek says the project itself will ensure Calgarians looking for more affordable options can ‘live with dignity.’

The second floor will also be home to a co-working space for up to 60 independent beauty businesses, which People First Developments says will be the biggest co-working space for estheticians in Calgary.

Mayor Jyoti Gondek says the project itself will ensure Calgarians looking for more affordable options can ‘live with dignity.’

This is a very big deal for our city, we didn't ask the developer to do this, but they thought it was a good idea to include a component of affordability so incentives absolutely work and this project is a great example,” said Gondek.

17 BUILDINGS

The City of Calgary’s Office to Residential Housing Pipeline project includes a total of 17 buildings (13 approved, four in the review process) set for conversion into affordable living spaces. According to a city estimate, it will inject just under $550 million in private sector investment into Downtown Revitalization and provide over 2,300 housing opportunities to more than 3,500 Albertans.

Announced in August 2021, Calgary's downtown development incentive program helped pave the way for building owners to convert unused office space into residential buildings, hotels, schools or performing arts spaces.

The program had an initial investment of $45 million and offered $75 per square foot for residential conversions, up to a maximum of $10 million.

An additional $108 million was committed to the program since then.

When it’s all said and done, the city will see 2.3 million square feet of what was office space, converted into homes.

"It's beautiful to see private sector partners believe in the west end as well and so I think more families, more people living downtown, especially on the west side means that the amenities will follow as well," Gondek added.

The Cornerstone in downtown Calgary is holding an open house Saturday between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.

Earlier this week, the city announced three of its latest office-to-residential conversions which include:

  •        Dominion Centre (665 8 Street S.W.) – Alston Properties Ltd. and Slate Asset Management
  •        Palliser One (125 9 Avenue S.W.) – Aspen Properties
  •        Element by Westin (833 4 Avenue S.W.) – PBA Group of Companies

For now, Gondek notes that the intake process for converting new offices to residential buildings is on pause as projects come to completion and concerns over incentives running out once these four projects are approved in the pipeline.

"Our team is looking at how the funding might work and I believe it was the federal government that announced a program for purpose built rental a couple of years ago, and I don't know how tapped that program has been, but there has been a lot of conversation about it," she said.

"So I know our team will be working with federal counterparts to see if we can access some of those funds and what our structuring of an incentive would look like based on that money."

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