It’s been nearly two weeks since the temporary pandemic shelter closed at the Edmonton Convention Centre. Now that the city’s most vulnerable have moved out, the building will need to undergo some repairs in order to get it ready for when events are allowed to operate again.
Tipinawâw opened at the convention centre on Oct. 30, 2020, to provide the city’s vulnerable population with shelter through the winter. The 24/7 accommodation provided people with a number of services, including meals, laundry and showers, as well as mental health and cultural supports.
Demand for the services was high, with Tipinawâw consistently full for both day and overnight services. More than 600 people accessed drop-in day services per day, and upwards of 300 stayed overnight.
On Tuesday afternoon, Global News was given a tour of the facility.
Several broken windows were boarded up with wood, after dozens of panes of glass were broken over the six-month period the shelter was in operation.
“We just ended up covering it up, waiting until the end. Now we’re just going through, getting some quotes to do the replacements. Initial estimates for glass replacement are in the $60,000 range so far,” said Arlindo Gomes, the Edmonton Convention Centre’s vice-president of business development and venues management.
“During this activation the glass did suffer a bit more damage than we would normally expect.”
Tipinawâw temporary shelter closes after 6 months at Edmonton Convention Centre
Another area that saw damage was the washrooms, which had graffiti on several of the stalls.
Gomes anticipates the total damages to cost about $100,000.
Overall, he said the rest of the repairs are typical after hosting any event at the facility.
“I think this is what we expected. We thought given just the amount of window space that we have that we might have some damage. But largely, the building has stood up really well. The carpets are in great shape, they’re meant for high volume and traffic. There’s no real damage or concern there.”
Mayor Don Iveson has previously said some windows needed to replaced and some of the bathrooms could use some work. Iveson said Monday that repair costs were factored in to the overall budget for the shelter.
“It’s a very hard-wearing facility. People forget that we run raves there, high school grads. The building can actually stand up to quite a lot,” the mayor said.
“So that said, we always also assumed that there was going to be some costs and some refurbishments required — some of which were necessary anyway. Now we’ve got some time over the summer to create those jobs, do that work and it was always within that $13 million budget that we had overall.”
Iveson is confident the work will be done well before COVID-19 restrictions are lifted and larger events can be held at the site.
“We would love to bring people back to work — servers and chefs and folks who, we were able to keep some employed during the Convention Centre activation, but those folks want to get back to work just like we all want to get back out into events in the community,” he said.
“The building will be ready, I’m confident of that.”
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic hitting last spring, the ECC employed between 400 and 500 people at any given time. Gomes said about 300 of those employees have been laid off since last March, but they were able to bring back about 150 people for the six-month activation of the shelter.
“We certainly had an opportunity to recall many of those staff during the activation here from October to April,” he said.
“They were excited to be able to contribute and make a difference and I think, through the activation, learned a lot and appreciated the opportunity to be here.”
Gomes said the building will likely be ready to reopen September, if public health measures allow. Several organizations have pushed their large events to next year, but Gomes said some are still holding dates for later this year.
— With files from Sarah Ryan, Global News.
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