Wawanesa planning move to former CHCA-TV building

The Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Company has laid claim to a piece of the former CHCA-TV premises in Red Deer.

The Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Company has laid claim to a piece of the former CHCA-TV premises in Red Deer.

The Canadian company has committed to lease approximately 5,200 square feet of the main floor of the 2840 Bremner Ave. building, confirmed Keith Hartry, Wawanesa’s vice-president for northern Alberta.

Renovations are already underway, with completion anticipated by the end of March.

Wawanesa operates a local claims office at 4711 51st Ave., with these operations expected to relocate to the new site around mid-April, said Hartry. That will nearly double Wawanesa’s space in Red Deer, giving it room to grow its current payroll of approximately 20 people.

“We’re already starting to staff up in anticipation of getting into our new space,” said Hartry, adding that the new office should be able to accommodate up to 30 employees.

Additional staff will allow the company to perform more of its work locally and improve the level of service here, he said.

“We have a lot of customers and business in Central Alberta. We want more staff in this area to handle that business.”

The approximately 13,000 square feet on the main floor of the building has been vacant since Canwest Global Communications Corp. pulled the plug on CHCA-TV in August 2009.

The television station, which had been broadcasting locally for more than 50 years, had also operated as RDTV.

The second floor of the building is occupied by radio stations 106.7 The Drive and Big 105. Both are owned by the Jim Pattison Broadcast Group, with Jim Pattison Developments Ltd. the building’s owner.

Lorraine Beese, real estate manager with Jim Pattison Developments, said negotiations related to the balance of the vacant space are ongoing. A leasing brochure for the property indicates that two deals are pending.

Because few clients need to visit Wawanesa’s claims office in Red Deer, a downtown location wasn’t deemed necessary, said Hartry. In addition to providing more space, the new site is accessible and has plenty of parking, he added.

“We’re really happy with the location.”

Converting the former television station to office space will require extensive renovations, said Hartry.

“It’s a complete transformation.”