Safe haven

New domestic violence shelter raises the bar in Canada

The Brenda Strafford Foundation is bringing a unique mix of affordable and market housing to Calgary with a $30-million domestic violence shelter project designed to help women break the cycle of abuse once and for all.

When complete this month (December), the shelter will have 34 apartments that can house victims of domestic violence and their children for six months and 51 affordable apartments where they can stay for two additional years, giving women the time they need to establish themselves.

"The number one barrier to keeping women from returning to abusive partners is the lack of affordable housing," says Mario Siciliano, president and CEO of the Brenda Strafford Foundation. "This continuum of housing will assist tremendously in preventing the cycle of abuse."

The project consists of two mixed-use buildings over one level of underground parking. Building A is 8,101 sq. m in six storeys and includes 289 sq. m of retail space and 85 units of affordable housing as well as space for programming. Building B is a four-storey building that includes 512 sq. m of retail space and nine luxury condominiums that will be sold to help fund the project.

The second floor of the U-shaped building A includes an outdoor courtyard that will serve as a protected playground for kids living at the shelter.

"It is our understanding that this facility has raised the bar for domestic violence shelters in Canada," says James Peloso, founder and president of Golden Triangle Construction Management Inc. in Okotoks, Alta.

As construction manager and general contractor, Golden Triangle has led the project team from conceptual design to completion and provided value engineering, input on design constructability, evaluation of market conditions and cost estimating during preconstruction.

Before construction began, Golden Triangle was presented with an unusual dilemma. The foundation asked the company to work around an existing building on the site so that the business operating out of that building could continue to do so for as long as possible.

"That was obviously impossible to do," Peloso says. So when the Calgary Board of Education stepped forward with three portable classrooms, Golden Triangle revamped them for the business to occupy. "That kind of set the tone for this project," he says. "It said a lot about the owners, that they would go to that extent."

In partnership with the trades on site, Golden Triangle was able to bring the project in under budget and ahead of schedule. The company also upgraded the building envelope and many other design elements at no extra cost to the owner to solidify their commitment to the project and those it would eventually serve.

"Our entire staff and trade group were quite excited about the project," says Peter Kiranas, senior project manager with Golden Triangle. "They understood the importance of this project to the community and performed accordingly to make sure that the building was completed on time and of the highest quality."

Getting the entire team rowing in the same direction was a challenge. Kiranas attributes the ability to align all stakeholders to the perseverance and dedication of Golden Triangle's staff.

The provincial government, municipal authorities and private contributors provided financing for the shelter.

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