For cSPACE projects, facilitating meaningful connections means finding significant spaces for collaboration and creativity to emerge. cSPACE’s niche is in real estate and property development with their mission being to address affordability and sustainability of spaces in Calgary. With rental rates rising and a myriad of buildings being torn down to welcome stylish condominiums, many budding artists and small non-profit organizations are finding that there is a lack of space and resources for them to grow within the city.
According to Reid Henry who is the CEO and President of cSPACE, “to have our creative community in such a constant state of instability…you got to think that it is impacting the quality of their work and partnerships.”
Before cSPACE, Henry worked for Toronto based Artscape, a non-profit urban development organization that specifically looked at mission driven real estate development. Following a similar model, cSPACE was created by two local shareholders – the Calgary Foundation and Calgary Arts Development Authority. Henry explains that “what we are is a response to the difficulty of putting real estate together…we fund development, have the same urban design processes as a private sector…but the difference is that we don’t do it for profit, we do it to hit our mission of affordable space.”
But affordability of space is only one of many layers to their enterprise. They also have the desire to animate the building as a place of collaboration and entrepreneurial training. To invest in their staff and really support the artists and organizations that share residency within their buildings. In the words of Henry – “to be a vessel and a platform for a lot of different partnerships.”
Their flagship project cSPACE King Edward is the reimagining and transformation of the 100 year old King Edward School into an arts incubator hub. For many years this heritage building remained unoccupied, with only the ghosts of students past roaming the halls.
With the purchase of the King Edward School, cSPACE has plans to reuse the existing heritage building and develop three large common spaces in addition to a shared kitchen and affordable housing for artists. The completion of their renovation will bring them to 45,000 sq. ft. of shared and creative space for people to work and live. Their size will enable cSPACE to be a home for quite the diverse mix of artists and organizations.
According to Henry, “the diversity drives the richness of the community that we create in this building. You won’t just have 3 to 4 organizations, you will have 30-40 organizations working together, from visual artists to dancers to animators. The innovation that we try to drive is from people collaborating in different ways and with different people than they normally would.”
Reusing the existing building is part of their efforts to use the greenest and most sustainable practices to develop the property. A few other key features will be a recycled tire roof, rainwater capture and reuse and prioritization for bicyclists and pedestrians. In terms of generating a profit once the building has been completed, cSPACE will be using a cost recovery model that is hitting a certain square foot rate that is affordable to most of the community they are serving.
Because the cSPACE is still in the initial development stages of their project, their early challenges have been convincing people that this is a viable business model along with defining what this project is all about.
“Transparency and openness to partnership was fundamental to getting where we are. We want to be known as a community developer,” says Henry, “it is really meant to be an open door and collaborative project.”
In Henry’s experience perseverance, tenacity and staying with your vision are essential to developing and pursuing your projects. With two thirds of their funding goal raised, cSPACE is now reaching out to the philanthropic community to complete the amount needed in order to start breaking ground this upcoming April.
Case study by Jasmine Retzer, Student, Mount Royal University