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Office-to-residential conversion hailed as 'tangible example' of 'Calgary in the new economy'

Updated: May 4, 2023

Source: CBC News

Strategic Group CEO Riaz Mamdani speaks at an opening ceremony for Cube, a former office building his company has converted to residential use.(Stéphanie Rousseau/Radio-Canada)

Project brings 'better balance' to city's core, Calgary Economic Development says

A $25-million project to convert an old office building in Calgary's core into a residential rental block is nearly complete and already home to several tenants.

"Less than a year ago, this building was called the Stephenson Building and it was an aging office building," said Daorcey Le Bray, director of brand and community for Strategic Group, the company behind the project.

"Today, it is effectively a brand-new residential rental building with 65 one- and two-bedroom suites. It has been transformed from underused office space into a vibrant corner, with more people living in the Beltline."

Strategic Group CEO Riaz Mamdani said the company decided to transform the building a year and a half ago, when office tenants were ending their lease and no new tenants were on the horizon.

"We were facing an empty office building in the Beltline," Mamdani said.

"Our problem was that we had a 26 per cent vacancy in office space in Calgary. Our problem was that, in order to fix that vacancy, it was going to take 12 to 16 years. We had a choice to make. We could wait 12 to 16 years and complain. Or we could do something about it."

'No small feat'

The conversion wouldn't have been possible without a city initiative known as the Centre City Enterprise Area, which aims to encourage more development in Calgary's core area through relaxed regulations.

Leslie Shier with Calgary Economic Development said the project helps create a "better balance" of residential and office space in the downtown area.

Leslie Shier is a business development manager with Calgary Economic Development who focuses on real estate.(Stéphanie Rousseau/Radio-Canada)

"We need more purpose-built rental in our core; we are heavily weighted in our office sector," she said.

"Cube is the tangible example of the economic strategy of Calgary in the new economy.… Strategic Group has taken underutilized office space off the market and created 65 new homes for people in the heart of our city. That is no small feat."

Mayor Naheed Nenshi also welcomed the development.

"You know, anytime you hear me talk, you hear me talk about building community," he said.

"And today we get to celebrate physically building community in this space. Instead of an empty, old office building, we are standing on a place that is new, that is vibrant, that will give 100 people a place to live, that will help the small businesses in this neighbourhood."

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