Calgary is facing multiple issues: an affordable housing crisis, families facing homelessness, empty office buildings and a need for revitalization in the downtown core.

But a new partnership called Project Thrive is working to address these issues with one solution. Two non-profit organizations, HomeSpace and Inn from the Cold came together to convert an empty office tower at 706 7th Ave. S.W. into 82 affordable housing units. 

After 12 months of construction, the newly renovated building is now called Neoma and is set to welcome families in November. It was completed under budget with the help of the project team, and many donors and partners.

According to the organizations, the name represents the new moon, new beginnings and a chance at a new chapter of life for families that will live there. 

Along with affordable housing, the building will host the new Inn from the Cold multi-family hub that includes a family emergency shelter, transitional housing, community space and workspace for their staff. 

Inn from the Cold is the largest organization in the Calgary region that is dedicated solely to helping families experiencing a housing crisis.

“We have three main programs to support families wherever they may be on their housing journey, which includes prevention and diversion services, emergency shelter and supportive housing,” said Heather Morley, the organization’s executive director. 

Neoma is a purpose-built environment that has been designed with families in mind. Project Thrive is reinforcing best practices in trauma-informed care to ensure no family falls through the cracks.

From left to right: Dion Hatcher (President of Vermillion Energy), Terry Wong (Ward 7 City Councillor), Josephine Pon (Minister of Seniors and Housing), Bernadette Majdell (CEO of HomeSpace), Heather Morley (executive director of Inn from the Cold), Jason Luan (Minister of Community and Social Services), and Ian Anderson (Trans Mountain Canada – Cabinet Chair). PHOTO: ERICA JOHN

“This is Canada’s first office to affordable housing conversion,” said Bernadette Majdell, the CEO of HomeSpace, a charity that builds, maintains and manages affordable housing for vulnerable Calgarians.

“We found this vacant office tower and with the support of every level of government, dozens of private donors, and amazing construction manager, our builders, architects, local trades, really, a community, we came together and transformed this old tower into an opportunity for Calgary families to go from homelessness to permanent affordable housing, all in one place,” said Majdell.

The $30-million project was made possible with a $16.6-million contribution part of the Rapid Housing Investment from the Government of Canada, $2 million from the province and federal government through the Canada-Alberta Bilateral Housing agreement under the National Housing Strategy, and $5.5 million from the City of Calgary as part of its downtown revitalization initiative. Private donors also raised nearly $6 million. 

The project was applauded by Community and Social Services Minister Jason Luan, who was also excited to release the Government of Alberta’s action plan on homelessness, and Seniors and Housing Minister Josephine Pon who attended the grand opening. The opening of Neoma aligns with the province’s Stronger Foundations affordable housing strategy.

“We all know housing is the foundation of a bright and prosperous future. Neoma is a big step in the right direction,” said Pon.

The largest mural in Alberta by Jacquie Comrie can be seen on the west side of the new Neoma building. PHOTO: ERICA JOHN

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