Calgary-based Strategic Group transformed an aging office building into inner-city apartments.
Today, Strategic Group CEO Riaz Mamdani joined with Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Calgary Economic Development to officially open Cube, the first office-turned-residential rental building in the city’s recent history. A year ago, the building was an aging office space. Now it is 65 new one- and two-bedroom rental residences with street-level retail in Calgary’s vibrant Beltline community.
Transforming underused office space into homes for Calgarians is a creative and unconventional response to Calgary’s slow economic recovery. Current analysis suggests a 12 to 16-year period before the office real estate market in Albert stabilizes. In contrast, the market is seeing a growing demand for new, high quality rental apartments. Repurposing projects take empty office space off the market while replacing it with more active, revenue-generating uses.
“Repurposing simply makes good sense,” said Mr. Mamdani. “In projects like Cube, we see a solid opportunity for our business, the larger economy, the environment, and our local community. Projects of this nature are complicated and very risky, but Cube was a perfect candidate.”
With 60 per cent of residences already spoken for, Calgarians were moving into Cube even before it was completed. The large, street-level retail space is being prepared for a new, soon-to-be-announced tenant, and the provincial constituency office that was in the original building has returned. Cube is conveniently located across from Co-op and other amenities, while also being adjacent to 11th Street and 12th Avenue bikeways.
“This project is an exciting next step for innovative development in our city,” said Mayor Nenshi. “Transforming a previously under-utilized office building into a place that more than a hundred people will call home will lead to great outcomes. This will improve the outlook and opportunity for businesses nearby, will utilize parks and infrastructure that are already in place, and will add to the vibrancy of the neighbourhood.”
In recent years, The City of Calgary and Calgary Economic Development have taken steps to improve the downtown economy. This includes the creation of a City Centre Enterprise Area that was instrumental in expediting the Cube project.
“Through the economic strategy, Calgary in the New Economy, we’re working to create more vibrancy in downtown in an attempt to attract more people and business while strengthening the businesses that are already here,” said Mary Moran, President and CEO of Calgary Economic Development. “Calgary is adapting to become even more business-friendly, and the speed at which Cube was able to develop is an example of that.”
In addition to the economic, community, and business motivations behind an office-to-residential repurposing project such as Cube, there are also environmental benefits. By repurposing an existing building rather than demolishing it for another building, Strategic Group saved nearly 8,000 tons of material from going to Calgary landfills. The repurposed building is also constructed to meet Built Green environmental standards.
“We are leaders in repurposing projects in Alberta,” said Mr. Mamdani. “Seeing these buildings revitalized as rental homes for Calgarians is very satisfying.”
In Calgary, Strategic Group is also repurposing the historic Barron Building into mixed-use residential rental with street-level rental. In downtown Edmonton, the company’s e11even and Capital office-to-residential repurposing projects will be completed later this year. Strategic Group is also building UPTEN in Calgary—a 38-storey residential rental building located in the Beltline that will be completed in 2020.
Above photo: Strategic Group CEO Riaz Mamdani and Mayor Naheed Nenshi.