Edmonton’s old Remand Centre sat vacant for years, but a local non-profit organization has been exploring the possibility of transforming the building into a community wellness centre.
“The site we are currently on – simply, there isn’t enough room,” said executive director Julian Daly, for Boyle Street Community Services. “The Remand [Centre] offers the potential of 200,000 square feet.”
From health to supportive housing, the idea would be to ‘radically repurpose’ the facility. Daly said they received a grant from the Alberta government to make the business case and they are now working with the non-profit sector and government partners to get the ball rolling.
“I think it will make significant inroads for a number of people and it will – I think – increase the chances of people getting better outcomes for themselves and that’s good for all of us,” Daly said.
Daly has been in Vancouver touring that city’s old remand centre, which was transformed into affordable housing units. The visit comes on the heels of Mayor Don Iveson’s motion for a coordinated inner city wellness strategy.
“It can’t just be managing the same people the same way, day in and day out,” Iveson said on Tuesday after making the move. “It has to have transition, off ramps into supportive housing and to treatment for people.”
The Remand Centre is the preferred option at this stage, according to Daly. However, there has been no firm decision. As for the business case, that is due to be completed in June or possibly early July.
Daly also added there would likely be continued consultation with the community.
“We hope that this will be a centre that all local people can access and not just our traditional demographic” Daly said.
A statement from the Ministry of Social Services reads in part: “This was a specific, purpose-built facility that will be challenging to convert, which is why we are exploring a variety of options and associated cost estimates for its future use. Any future decision must consider the best value for Albertans.”
It goes on to say: “We appreciate the important work of Boyle Street Community Services and other community partners to address the needs of vulnerable Albertans and Albertans with complex needs. We continue to work closely with the City of Edmonton and community partners to determine how best to meet the needs of vulnerable Albertans. We look forward to sharing more in the coming weeks.”
Current operating costs for the former Remand Centre total $1.3 million per year.