CALGARY -- An empty office tower in downtown Calgary has become the latest effort by the city to tackle one of its age-old issues.

The 10-storey Sierra Place office tower at 706 - Seventh Ave. S.W. is the former home of Dome Petroleum but, thanks to a partnership between HomeSpace Calgary and Inn from the Cold, it will enjoy a new life.

The 95,000 square foot vacant building will be converted into six floors of affordable housing, comprising 82 units and four floors of shelter and transitional support services.

“Sierra Place marks the first time a vacant office tower in Calgary has been converted into affordable housing,” says Bernadette Majdell, HomeSpace CEO. “There's a lot of services in the downtown, especially families that are experiencing homelessness or needing affordable housing. There's a lot of support services in the downtown. right across the street, (from Sierrea Place) we have a great green space that we're working with the province on. In this building, we're going to be offering child daycare centre. There'll be a lot of support services offered by Inn from the Cold. Families are everywhere in our city and the downtown's a great place for them.”

The building is Calgary’s first downtown office tower to be converted to affordable housing.

“This building represents hope. I think there's far too many families in Calgary, who are struggling to make ends meet. The thought of paying their mortgage or paying the rent each month is a difficult one” says Heather Morley, executive director, Inn from the Cold. “Being able to add affordable housing units, being able to add shelter and transitional housing units, that full continuum of support that can meet families who are in crisis, wherever they are, I think will be transformational. For so many it will change lives.”

Calgary’s downtown office tower vacancies exceed 30 per cent. That’s not “COVID work from home’ vacant – but buildings stripped of occupancy by the city’s battered economy.

It’s siphoned off $16 billion in value from the downtown core and forced Calgarians, and businesses outside downtown to pay an extra quarter billion in taxes. Calgary's Mayor Nenshi says filling buildings up, even if it’s not with corporations, will help ease that pain.

“It helps us with the office vacancy problem, and as we fill up the downtown, it means we have much less upward pressure on residential taxes and taxes on businesses outside of the downtown,” he said, adding moving families into the city centre will also revitalize the core.

“These are the sorts of things that we're doing to really help us rethink our downtown from a place that works between nine and five Monday to Friday, to a 24-hour, seven-day centre of the city.”

The $28.5 million project is getting support by different levels of government, including $5.5 million from the City of Calgary. Homespace Society and Inn from the Cold will be announcing a fundraiser this summer to help fully fund the conversion project.

Calgary, affordable housing, Sierra Place, Dome Pe

Calgary, affordable housing, Sierra Place, Dome Pe

When it’s finished in the fall of 2022, the building will feature affordable housing with a variety of one, two, and three-bedroom units. It’s expected to house approximately 180 people.

As work progresses. project updates will be available online at both HomeSpace.org and innfromthecold.org.