Question: I’ve heard that Barnett House may be expanding. Didn’t the Alberta Teachers’ Association just complete a renovation and expansion project?
Answer: Provincial Executive Council is currently considering the possibility of further expansion of Barnett House. The Association’s largest tenant, the Alberta Teachers’ Retirement Fund (ATRF), is in the midst of a very significant expansion and requires substantial additional space. The ATRF board has approved 10 additional positions in the current year, bringing its total staff from 70 to 80, and is projecting 40 additional staff positions by 2020.
The ATRF currently leases two full floors of Seymour Tower (the tall part of Barnett House). The space requirements are significant — at least one additional floor of Seymour Tower.
The Association does not have the space available, and is not inclined to evict other longstanding tenants or to convert meeting room space to office space on a continuing basis. Over the summer, we explored the potential to further expand Barnett House in order to accommodate the ATRF’s growing needs. Several options have been considered, but one is of particular interest.
The Association could demolish the auditorium and build an eight-storey tower immediately south of the current tower. Essentially, the construction would be to build three walls onto the south wall of Seymour Tower and to create contiguous space with the existing building. The auditorium would be replaced (essentially the first two floors of the new structure), and there would be 4,500 square feet added to each floor from three to eight. The general cost projection is $10 to 12 million.
The ATRF requires an answer with respect to its space needs because its lease ends in 2016. If the Association cannot provide the required space, the ATRF will need to secure other space. Including temporary space leased to handle its expanding operation, the ATRF pays approximately $600,000 per year for current leased space. The ATRF has discussed the concept of signing a long-term lease (probably 15 years) and may be open to providing a loan, at market rates, for construction costs.
Provincial Executive Council is discussing the available options with members, and a decision is anticipated later this year.
It should be noted that further expansion of Barnett House would require additional parking on site. The existing parkade does not have sufficient parking available for current Association needs, and we have been planning to deal with this issue for some time. Unfortunately, the parkade, built in 1983, was not developed for expansion. The structure would need to be demolished and replaced.
Questions for consideration in this column are welcome. Please address them to Gordon Thomas at Barnett House (email@example.com).