Work to start only a year after fire

One year after a fire destroyed Mountain Aire Lodge, street people now living and working at the Sundre area centre will begin construction next month on a new facility.

One year after a fire destroyed Mountain Aire Lodge, street people now living and working at the Sundre area centre will begin construction next month on a new facility.

Mountain Aire Lodge, run by Calgary’s Mustard Seed Ministry, is in its final preparations to build a centre that will meet present and future needs.

On July 21, 2008, a massive blaze consumed the main lodge where a restaurant, gas station, store and conference room were based. The loss of the lodge was a devastating blow for the clients who once worked there as part of their rehabilitation from addictions.

Arson was suspected.

Lodge executive director Jason Nixon said the ministry has since turned “the fire into a real opportunity.”

The nonprofit organization has taken on a larger project to see how Mountain Aire Lodge could develop over the next two decades.

A consultant was hired to review the entire property, nestled on the eastern slopes of the Rockies west of Sundre. It includes a 45-site campground and a 12-room motel.

Mountain Aire also manages eight provincial campgrounds, including one day-use site, in the area.

The consultant created a detailed plan that would see Mountain Aire Lodge employ up to 50 clients who were formerly homeless on Calgary city streets. Currently, the centre has 25 clients and five staff living and working on site. The clients, who are paid minimum wage, plus room and board, stay on average one year.

The plan spoke of more programming space for addictions and increasing campground space. It suggested a larger main lodge with a bigger restaurant and five housing units on the second floor.

As before, the lodge would also have a convenience store and administrative space. It would run about 5,200 square feet — about 2,000 square feet bigger than its predecessor. The price tag is about $2 million.

“A portion has already been raised, but we still have over a million dollars to go,” Nixon said. “We definitely have enough money to start phase one of the project, which is all the concrete work.”

The clients would help with building construction. The main lodge will have a rustic feel to it, similar to the historic lodge of the past.

The consultants’ plan also provided options to bring in more revenue — having chalets to attract more tourists, erecting a wood shop in which to build furniture.

Mountain Aire could also double its year-round campground to have 90 sites. To do so, it would seek to lease land from provincial Crown land, Nixon said.

“We would keep the motel because there is huge oil and gas activity, and forestry,” Nixon said. “We would never expand beyond what we need.”

Once capital projects are paid off, then any additional revenue would go back into operations. The intent though is not to make money but to help the clients get back on their feet, Nixon said.

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