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Converting commercial space to residential real estate in Calgary

Anyone who regularly reads this blog, or follows the local news, knows there is a substantial surplus of commercial real estate in much of Alberta. Although there are indicators that vacancy rates may gradually begin to decrease, there is still a lot of available room going to waste. Following the lead of other communities, one urban strategist has proposed re-purposing some of the empty buildings as residential real estate.

The president and CEO of Calgary Economic Development pitched a concept to the City Council on Jan. 23 which would see viable but under-utilized downtown commercial buildings converted to living spaces. She believes that many young workers prefer living in the city to suburban life. It was also noted that they would happily move closer to the core to be near work and urban amenities. 

In her presentation, she cited the revitalization of Pittsburgh as an example of what can be accomplished. One strategy used there involved the designation of older buildings as "blighted." This has enabled developers to access grant money to rehabilitate historic structures. This had the two-fold benefit of preserving the city's past, and reducing redevelopment costs versus demolition and reconstruction. She admits the concept may not be easy from an economic standpoint, but that it could yield significant dividends for the city.

The idea of revitalizing an urban centre by attracting residents without breaking new ground seems very appealing. Re-using an existing structure for a new purpose can be a challenging process, however, from acquisition to amending zoning and finally transforming the space. Any developer seeking to create a new residential real estate space might need legal assistance at some stage of the project. A reputable law firm with a deep understanding of Alberta real estate law may be the best choice for the job.

Source: Metro Calgary, "Calgary's older office space might find new life as residential space", Brodie Thomas, Jan. 25, 2017

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