Calgary REIT switching office building to residential apartments

Artis plans to convert Sierra Place on 7 Ave SW into at least 90 residential units

Sierra Place, off of 6 Street SW, is currently Class-C office space but will soon be converted into residential units.

JENNIFER FRIESEN / FOR METRO

Sierra Place, off of 6 Street SW, is currently Class-C office space but will soon be converted into residential units.

Calgary’s downtown real estate market is saturated with unused office space at the moment, but so far, no property owners have said they’d convert that space to residential – until now.

Artis REIT has plans to turn Sierra Place – located at 706 7 Ave SW – from Class C office space into between 90 and 100 residential units

Greg Moore, vice president of asset management, western region, said it will be the REIT’s first residential property.

He said the decision came down to simple economics.

“Absorption of office space is projected to be very modest in the forthcoming years, so we have determined that greater cash flows can be obtained through a conversion to multi-family,” said Moore.

The building was first constructed in 1958 and upgraded in 1970. The approximately 92,000 square feet of space has access to the Plus-15 network and is located right on the LRT line.

“The convenience of closely located public transit is an advantage for the market we’ll be targeting,” said Moore. “The market for centrally-located rental suites that allow residents the opportunity to live in an area where they can both work and play is growing. We feel our site will meet the demands of this market.”

The ground floor tenants will remain in the building, but Artis is working to find arrangements with all other tenants in the building.

Moore said construction is set to begin in early 2018 with anticipated completion in 2019.

Coun. Druh Farrell, who has been advocating for more creative use of space in the downtown, said this news is exciting for her.

“For decades it’s been the goal of the city to have more residential in the downtown core – more of a balance,” she said.

She said even if the economy turns around, she wants more people and livable spaces in the downtown.

Farrell said conversions such as this can be challenging for any number of reasons, including ceiling height, asbestos, and upgrading plumbing from an office layout to a residential layout.

She said building codes may make things complicated, but the city is doing what it can to make the land use changes easier, and to remove barriers that stand in the way of more property owners making changes like this.

“It does mean we’ll have to look at the public realm and see if there’s an investment needed in the neighbourhood,” she said.