An Evolution of Affordable Housing by Deb Lee, BRCA Heritage Committee
While you would never know it if you happen to walk by today, the development of the southeast corner of Bridgeland-Riverside has taken many years, and a lot of hard work to become the vibrant, inclusive nook in our community that it is today.
The presence of the Calgary General Hospital in Bridgeland (until 1998) and the availability of land on the flat grassy plains north of the Bow River prompted a number of housing organizations and support services to locate in the Riverside area. In 1982, one such organization built housing for seniors on 11A Street just south of McDougall Rd. Then known as the Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary Association for Senior Citizens, they managed the 10-storey brown brick building with 99 one-bedroom units. It was named ‘Columbus Manor’ after the Knights of Columbus who provided leadership for the project.
With the Olympic Games of 1988, there was a need to house the media close to downtown. The vacant land adjacent to Columbus Manor was chosen and many small dwellings were built in a village-like setting. After the Games, these self-contained units were converted to Seniors Housing and came to be known as the Columbus Cottages. The short streets connecting the cottages were named for the three ships that carried Christopher Columbus across the ocean – the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria. These cottages gradually lost their residents and were last used to accommodate people displaced during the 2013 flood.
The need for more affordable housing continued to increase in Calgary, not only with seniors but with middle-aged people and families. With an updated name,the Bishop O’Byrne Housing for Seniors Association constructed a 76 unit 4-storey building on 11A St. Named Columbus Place and opening in 2013, it is home to a range of seniors and families. The address for the building is 100 Nina Gardens.Demand for affordable housing has continued unabated. In 2019, with support from the Calgary Collaborative
Capital Campaign for Affordable Housing (formerly known as the RESOLVE Campaign), building commenced on a 104-unit structure on land adjacent to 12 Street. To address present day needs, the units are a range of sizes up to a 4-bedroom apartment and include numerous units that accommodate the needs of people with disabilities. Residents started to arrive in May and full occupancy is expected in early 2022. To reflect its broader mandate for affordable housing for people of all ages, the organization updated its name for a third time in its history to ‘Forward Housing’.
This southeast corner of our community is becoming a vibrant place. People of all ages now live here, and the newly created park offers the opportunity for mixing and mingling of residents from all of the buildings. (See Park Naming project article where Park #8 is discussed). The benches provide welcome seating for passersby and laughter and children’s voices from the nearby preschool, Wee Wild Ones, adds to the scene. Proximity to the CNIB Fragrant Garden is another bonus!
Forward Housing is committed to building natural supports and community amongst their tenants and within the neighbourhood at large. They have worked with several local businesses such as Bridgeland Market, Blush Lane Organic Market, and Starbucks on 1A, who have all joined forces in welcoming our newest community members. Thanks to Catapulta Contracting Ltd. (the Project Managers
for Bishops Manor), who donated their time to do the construction with materials donated by Forward Housing, a new “L” wayfinding structure, similar to the ones found along McDougall Rd. has been built and installed. On October 6, the ‘Lend a Hand(print)’art event and celebration was held. Participants were invited to coat their hands with paint and leave their prints on the L structure. As can be seen in the cover photo of this issue of Bridges, virtually every inch was covered. We all felt a sense of accomplishment and pride
at the completion of this landmark and celebration of the arrival of our new neighbours. Thanks to the leadership of Forward Housing, the last 40 years have seen amazing changes in this formerly isolated area of Riverside. Plan to take a walk to this lovely area and
say hello to our new neighbours! Consider completing a survey for Park #8 and suggest a name for the park.