Affordable housing going up in the Valley

A project estimated to cost more than $5 million would see the Rancher’s Valley Inn in downtown Red Deer rise two floors and provide as many as 85 affordable housing suites.

Caleb Barthel

A project estimated to cost more than $5 million would see the Rancher’s Valley Inn in downtown Red Deer rise two floors and provide as many as 85 affordable housing suites.

Stan Schalk and Peter Leyen, partners in Potter’s Hands Developments Ltd., took possession of the building at the beginning of the week. Schalk said Thursday they will apply to the municipal planning commission later this month to add two floors to the building.

The additional storeys would bring the number of suites available from a total of 26 currently to a total of 70 to 85 suites — made up of bachelor, one and two-bedroom apartments.

The project would take a year and a half to complete and would include refurbishing and redoing the outside of the building.

Workers’ sledgehammers started ripping into the Valley bar this week. On Thursday, a pile of broken timber remained of what was once the stage.

New pipes were expected to be put in soon and other fix-ups during the next month.

Potter’s Hands Developments Ltd. wants to revamp and expand the Valley to give people working downtown an affordable place to live.

The bar and liquor store have shutdown and will eventually become retail space. Ben’s Dim Sum Restaurant remains and people continue to rent the suites on the second floor.

Schalk said the Valley will be different housing from the Buffalo Hotel, which was a housing first project for Potter’s Hands.

The philosophy behind housing first is to offer a home to people, even if they are abusing alcohol and other substances, and once they are housed, to offer them other services they might need.

“The Buffalo is a housing first project, so it is really housing the hardest to house,” Schalk explained. “This project with the Valley is more looking to house people who are employed in the downtown, so people who aren’t making a lot of money who need affordable housing.”

Rent on the suites would likely be between $400 to $600, depending on whether it is a bachelor, one-bedroom or two-bedroom apartment.

Schalk also has plans to create 10 accessible units so that people in wheelchairs or with mobility issues will have affordable housing available to them.

“There is just an immense shortage of affordable housing, particularly in those two categories — people who are working, but who can’t afford to pay $900 or $1,000 a month rent and people who are needing accessible housing. There is hardly any of that available in the downtown area,” Schalk said.

Schalk said the Valley project fits well with the Greater Downtown Action Plan’s vision to have more people living in the downtown.

The Valley is the last of four hotels that once existed by Gaetz Avenue between 49th and Ross Streets.

Potter’s Hands purchased the Buffalo Hotel for the Housing First project, the Windsor Hotel burned down a number of years ago and the Arlington Inn was recently torn down by the City of Red Deer.

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