“A moment to savour”

Delivered at the sod-turning of the Old Grace Housing Co-operative, August 11, 2016, by Sandra Hardy, President of the Board of Directors of the OGHC

 

Mr. Minister, members of the Old Grace Housing Co-op, Honoured guests.

Photo credit: Phil Barnett.
Photo credit: Phil Barnett.

It is a great pleasure it is to be speaking to you today. I want to thank all of you for coming out to mark a momentous day in the life of the Old Grace Housing Co-op. Many people have helped us get to this stage of the project—and a great debt is owed to all of them.

But first I want to acknowledge a debt of much longer standing. Today we are gathered on Treaty 1 lands—the lands of the Anishinabeq and Cree nations—and the homeland of the Metis Nation. Last week marked the 145th anniversary of the signing of Treaty One at Lower Fort Garry. We should never forget that our co-op stands in the shade of historic agreements of friendship, cooperation, and sharing.

To start, I’d like to acknowledge the support of our future neighbours —and the larger community of Wolseley. Wolseley residents have been keeping an eye on the developments on this site ever since it became known that the Old Grace Hospital would be declared surplus to government requirements.

Over the last four years, Wolseley residents and community groups engaged with us, encouraged us, supported us, and challenged us—and those challenges have resulted in an even better project design.

We are grateful for the opportunities to have worked with you and we intend to be very good neighbours.

From the beginning, Old Grace members envisioned a housing co-op that would be beautiful, inclusive, accessible, sustainable, moderately priced, multi-generational and democratic. It makes for an ambitious—and complicated—project.

We could not have realized this vision on our own. We would not be here today were it not for the support of

  • the Manitoba government, the City of Winnipeg zoning and permit staff,
  • Manitoba Hydro, our credit union,
  • our design team and project consultants,
  • our neighbours, fellow co-operatives and many others.

We are thrilled that so many of you are here today to help us celebrate this occasion.

Our design team – Prairie Architects with their small army of engineers and our landscape architect, HTFC—have given us an outstanding building and landscape design. These designs reflect the character of this lovely, eclectic neighbourhood. We will be proud indeed to take possession of this wonderful building in early 2018.

In addition to being designed to be beautiful, our project is also designed to be sustainable. Our consultants have paid close attention to sustainable site development, to energy efficiency, to water efficiency, to the selection of building materials and to indoor air quality.

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the most widely used third-party verification for green buildings. We expect to be the first not-for-profit housing group in Winnipeg to qualify for Gold certification, and the only housing co-op.

Our design team has gone well beyond the terms of your contracts to help us meet our ambitious design and environmental goals. Thank you, Prairie Architects and HTFC.

We want to share the economic benefits of the Old Grace Housing Co-op. This is a $15.8 million project with considerable economic impact. A recent Manitoba Bureau of Statistics economic impact study concluded that the construction will generate a total economic impact of $21.8 million, including 120 person-years of direct and indirect employment.

We hope that some of those jobs will go to Wolseley residents – who are already dropping off resumes to the construction office, and to the good folks at BUILD and Manitoba Green Retrofit.

These organizations offer job training and skills development to people who would otherwise not have this opportunity.

Our construction manager, Concord Projects, has guided us through three phases of costing. They continue to find ways to help us live within a very constrained budget. We are grateful for your experience and collaborative approach to building multi-unit non-profit housing. Other housing groups who have hired you, can’t say enough positive things about their experience. We have no doubt that in the future, we will add our voice to that chorus. Thank you, Concord

Shovels don’t go into the ground until financing is in place. If we could not get a combination of tax credits, loans, grants, and member shares to add up to the cost of the building, we would have remained a co-op in the air. Fortunately we had the benefit of working with skilled co-op consultants at DSI Tandem Co-op Resources, and with the supportive and creative staff at Assiniboine Credit Union. They have all gone the extra mile for us. Thank you, DSI Tandem and ACU.

We also have had the immense good fortune to be working with the excellent staff in the Project Delivery Branch of Manitoba Housing. They have been knowledgeable, hardworking and supportive – they represent the finest examples of quality public service. We are deeply grateful to them.

Of course, the financing depended on the commitment of own co-op members. Members snapped up the suites when they became available. Fifteen months before move in date only a handful of suites are available. They are, of course “great suites” as our literature says, but there are only a few of them left. Those members who have taken suites this far in advance have also had to purchase their shares this far in advance. That’s a true measure of member commitment. Member shares will account for $3.5 million of our $15.8 million project.

It is almost impossible for me to overstate the contribution of the members of the Old Grace Housing Co-op. Going back to the spring of 2012, our members have done everything asked of them and much, much more. Members have

  • Recruited other members
  • Attended countless meetings
  • Engaged our consultants and advisors
  • Developed by-laws, policies and relations with regulatory bodies
  • Participated in Board, committee and task group activities
  • Written support letters and appeared at City Council meetings
  • Lent the co-op money when necessary
  • Promptly paid member shares and signed their legal documents
  • Produced and distributed leaflets, posters, signs and more

Even when our prospects seemed dim, our members believed we could make this happen. And so we have.

In a few short months, our members will begin living in this co-op. Our attention will turn away from design and construction of a building toward constructing a new community. We have a great deal to look forward to.

But for today we can take a moment to savour how far we’ve come.

Thank you.