A downtown office building is being turned into a hub for local charities, non-profit groups and social services.
The Centre for Social Impact will be located in the Professional Building across from City Hall on Ross Street, which has been acquired by Youth HQ, now located nearby at 4633 49th St.
“I think this is a pivotal moment, for Youth HQ certainly, and our community,” said Youth HQ executive director Rob Lewis at a Thursday morning news conference in the lobby of the Professional Building.
Lewis said the goal is to provide affordable office, program and meeting space for a range of local organizations and services.
Creating a single location where people can access a variety of services will help remove some of the barriers facing those trying to seek help.
Lewis outlined a scenario in which a single parent with children and no vehicle is seeking counselling and other aid, but providers are located at opposite ends of the city.
“Sometimes it’s insurmountable and they don’t access the services they need to deal with their challenges,” he said.
Youth HQ is expected to take one floor, leaving three other floors of space for other community organizations. Other tenants, such as a café, call centre, a number of psychologists and an engineering firm also have spaces.
Interest in taking space has already been expressed by organizations, such as the Red Deer Native Friendship Society, and Lewis is expecting others to come forward now word is out about the centre. Representatives from a number of other groups, including Ubuntu Mobilizing Central Alberta, Red Deer and District Communication Foundation and United Way of Central Alberta also attended the announcement.
How the space will be used will vary.
“It really depends. We might have anything from a tenant who takes a single office space to a tenant who takes a whole floor. It really depends on what their need is.
“Space is expensive and the cost of space is one of the hardships we deal with in the sector, so hopefully we can make the space affordable or large and small groups alike.”
Lease rates for organizations that want to move to the centre will vary depending on an organization’s ability to pay. An IT manager has been hired to provide technical support to tenants. The building’s large basement could be set aside as rental space for organizations that are not building tenants.
The building was donated by Maclab Properties Group, a private real estate group founded in Edmonton in the 1950s. Maclab has been a long-time supporter of Alberta’s non-profit community and said in a statement it was “excited to contribute to this project.”
City of Red Deer used to have a significant amount of office space in the building. The city moved out at the end of last year, boosting interest in finding another use that would serve the community.
Acting mayor Lawrence Lee applauded Youth HQ for its initiative in making a reality a concept that has been “decades in the making.
“Re-imagining this space creates a whole new energy for our downtown,” said Lee.
Youth HQ officially took possession of the building on Monday and it is expected tenants will begin moving in over the next few months.
Lewis said Youth HQ will be actively promoting the centre and pursuing sponsorships, including naming rights, as well as donations and grants to help support the project.
If all goes well, enough lease revenue can be generated to cover the cost of operating and maintaining the building with some extra funding left over. That could be used by Youth HQ to subsidize some of its operating costs while also providing funding help for other non-profit tenants.
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