CARMINE MARINELLI (24 HOURS) – Following its three-storey prototype (pictured), Atira Women’s Resource Society is set to file an application to build a new seven-storey affordable housing project in Strathcona — again using repurposed shipping containers.
It was really important for people to see that not only are they beautiful little suites … but to leave the container exposed so people would unmistakably know that these were 12 shipping containers.” — Janice Abbott, Atira CEO
Atira Women’s Resource Society is applying to construct a seven-storey housing complex made from recycled shipping containers on a Strathcona property, an initiative more than twice the height of a similar project it opened last year.
The non-profit’s proposal follows an existing three-storey pilot project launched in September on Alexander Street. Unlike those bachelor suites, however, the new plan would house families in one- and two-bedroom apartments at Hawks Avenue and East Hastings Street, currently zoned light-industrial.
“It’s still got to be designed yet,” said Atira development manager James Weldon. “This pilot project was in part to determine, ‘Is it even technically possible to do this?’
“Now we have the experience it’s going to be different structurally, maybe we’d fabricate them slightly differently.”
Atira CEO Janice Abbott said the new facility, if approved, wouldn’t mimic its predecessor because the property is more square, not a thin rectangle like the Alexander Street lot. But rezoning is the first step.
“For this one, we didn’t have to go through a rezoning process – we just had to convince them to let us do containers. That’s a bit of a challenge.
Abbott said the project would be women-only housing with one- and two-bed units to “have some family housing.”
Atira’s mission statement states it “supports all women, and their children, who are experiencing the impact of violence.” It owns a number of properties in Strathcona and the Downtown Eastside.
“I have admit, when the containers first came to the site, I was like, ‘Oh my God – they were dark, hulking rusty boxes,’” Weldon said. “But when this was finished, it turned into cool, contemporary housing. It really levels the housing playing field.”
Weldon said Atira hopes to reduce costs on future container housing. The prototype had “premium features” to showcase the idea and defray concerns over housing women in shipping crates.
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