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Imagine Sunalta Community Hub gets a $2 million boost

It’s payday for one of Calgary’s inner-city communities.

On Wednesday, Sept. 15, The Sunalta Community Association announced a $2 million contribution from The City of Calgary to the Imagine Sunalta Community Hub Project from the Established Area Investment Fund.

The fund aims to build and develop existing communities so they have the right infrastructure to grow and be successful for current and future residents.

And it’s going to do just that.

With the money, the community association is going to build a Community Hub to fund and deliver programming for Calgarians.

“This fund is going to allow us to build a community hub to fund and deliver programs to Calgarians,” said Jenn Balderston, executive director of the Sunalta community association.

“There’ll be a purpose-built facility where the revenue that it generates goes back into the community to fund much-needed programs and services.”

Some of those services will help tackle a problem she says many residents face – food insecurity.

Executive director of the Sunalta Community Association Jenn Balderston. (OMAR SHERIF / LIVEWIRE CALGARY)

A much needed opportunity

The project will be a purpose-built facility that includes a commercial community kitchen, coffee shop, expanded community gardens and greenhouse, multi-sport hardscape, mini soccer pitch, and programming spaces.

It’s something Balderston said will help the diverse and vibrant community thrive and grow for the future.

Despite the diversity of the community, Sunalta has its downsides.

According to research done by the community association, 1 in 4 Sunalta residents live on low income, 34 per cent of residents live alone, alongside a high population (27 per cent) of new Canadians. Roughly 27 per cent of the community’s residents are also refugees.

Food insecurity in the community is also a problem. Balderston called Sunalta a food desert and many residents report being food insecure.

“The Imagine Sunalta Community Hub Project is an incredible example of a space that will be so much more than just a building,” said Karen Young, the president and CEO of United Way for Calgary and Area.

“(It’s) a space where a community can come together, feel connected, and get what they need to live a life where they can truly thrive.

A parting gift

With only a month left in office, Ward 8 Coun. Evan Woolley said this was something he was proud to be a part of before he exited politics.

Ward 8 councillor Evan Woolley (OMAR SHERIF / LIVEWIRE CALGARY)

“This is a really exciting thing to do as I exit stage left,” said Woolley.

“The community has done just an incredible amount of work, which is this community hub, which will really act as a way to connect this community.”

Sunalta’s Hub Project is the first of its kind to be undertaken by a Community Association in Calgary. The Hub will be self-sustaining, with the income it generates from its social enterprises going back into the community to cover the costs of programs, services, and events.