Hard-to-house former residents of the Buffalo were evicted in July when the building was shuttered after $19,500 of fines for fire code violations were levied at the owner, Potter’s Hands Developments. (Photo by Red Deer Advocate Staff)

Hard-to-house former residents of the Buffalo were evicted in July when the building was shuttered after $19,500 of fines for fire code violations were levied at the owner, Potter’s Hands Developments. (Photo by Red Deer Advocate Staff)

Former Buffalo Hotel sitting empty as Red Deer grapples with homelessness

Constant vandalism and a large city fine caused owners to shutter the building

Much like other parts of Red Deer’s downtown core, the Buffalo Hotel awaits rejuvenation.

The 40-suite former hotel building has been sitting empty in downtown Red Deer since mid-summer as the city’s homeless population has grown, says the building’s owner.

Hard-to-house former residents of the Buffalo were evicted in July when the building was shuttered after $19,500 of fines for fire code violations were levied against the owner, Potter’s Hands Developments.

As a result, most of these former Buffalo tenants have returned to being homeless, said Seth Schalk, of Potter’s Hands.

“This a very high-risk group,” Schalk added. “I understand that they are a difficult population, but they are still someone’s son, mother, brother…”

Ken McMullen, acting general manager of development and protective services for the City of Red Deer, believes the way that the building was occupied was not in the best interest of anyone who lived there.

Fire code fines were issued were to protect public safety, due to a lacking sprinkler system, smoke detectors and other crucial safety features, said McMullen.

He added that many people using that building were not permitted to be there, but were coming and going as transients. “They were causing vandalism and the constant abuse that building took.”

Schalk estimated about 40 residents and numerous “guests” had lived in the former hotel. But new accommodations were only found for only about 15 of these people in other buildings his development company owns.

The rest of the Buffalo’s tenants are mostly likely back on the street, he added. calling them “a tough population,” responsible for repeated vandalism to the historic building.

Schalk said a Potter’s Hands staffer worked 40-hour weeks at the former hotel but maintenance was a constant challenge.

Related:

-Shelter workers prepare to start turning people away

The former Buffalo Hotel used to house the Canadian Mental Health Association-run housing program, but it relocated a few blocks south at the Amethyst House in 2020.

Potter’s Hands then tried to fill the empty rooms with other people who needed a place to stay, said Schalk. “We wanted to give it a shot to see if we could help that population.”

But after being fined nearly $20,000 last July for fire code violations at the Buffalo, as well as Stan Schalk Apartments, Potter’s Hands administrators re-evaluated and decided the downtown housing project was unsustainable.

McMullen said it might have been costly to bring the old building up to standards, but given the circumstances, the former hotel wasn’t fit for housing. “One of the challenges was the lack of standards and safety codes in that building, and the city has a requirement to ensure the safety of all residents.”

See also:

-Shelter allowed to operate during state of emergency

Schalk noted his company had received no money or support from the city for housing otherwise homeless people at the Buffalo.

“I don’t want to complain about city council. They’ve got some good heads in there,” said Schalk. “But it would be nice if they worked more with agencies to find solutions instead of fighting with agencies.”

McMullen said the city’s social services department are working with agencies on a daily basis to help solve housing problems.

City officials would love to see that former hotel eventually occupied, redeveloped and revitalized so it’s part of a “vibrant, safe downtown,” added McMullen.

Schalk has no idea what the future holds for the 1903 art deco-style former hotel at the corner of Ross Street and 50th Street, saying it might eventually be redeveloped or sold.



lmichelin@reddeeradvocate.com

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It remains to be seen what the future holds for the 1903 art deco-style former hotel at the corner of Ross Street and 50th Street, although it might eventually be redeveloped or sold. (Photo by Red Deer Advocate Staff)

It remains to be seen what the future holds for the 1903 art deco-style former hotel at the corner of Ross Street and 50th Street, although it might eventually be redeveloped or sold. (Photo by Red Deer Advocate Staff)

It remains to be seen what the future holds for the 1903 art deco-style former hotel at the corner of Ross Street and 50th Street, although it might eventually be redeveloped or sold. (Photo by Red Deer Advocate Staff)

It remains to be seen what the future holds for the 1903 art deco-style former hotel at the corner of Ross Street and 50th Street, although it might eventually be redeveloped or sold. (Photo by Red Deer Advocate Staff)