Boyle Street Community Services gets development permit for new facility

Plans to move to a renovated facility are back on track for the agency, which serves Edmontonians experiencing homelessness.

Plans halted after development appeal board pulled permit in November

A jubilant crowd listens on as Boyle Street Community Services announces the city of Edmonton has given the green light to move forward its development project.
Boyle Street Community Services informed a jubilant crowd of supporters Tuesday that the agency has been given the green light to move forward on its renovation project. (Craig Ryan/CBC)

Plans to move to a renovated facility are back on track for an agency that serves Edmontonians experiencing homelessness.

In November, the City of Edmonton's development appeal board revoked the permit for Boyle Street Community Services' okimaw peyesew kamik — or King Thunderbird Centre — citing zoning issues.

But the agency has now been granted a Class A development permit to continue the project. 

"We're back on track and this project is happening," Jordan Reiniger, executive director of Boyle Street Community Services, announced Tuesday.

His announcement was met by applause and cheers from dozens of supporters including many holding placards with messages like "It's more than a building" and "You can be part of the solution."

Reiniger said King Thunderbird will serve community members well.

"This building is a statement that says that we love you, you belong here, and we're going to create the most beautiful building in our city to make sure that you see that."

In December 2021, Boyle Street announced plans to move from its current location in a former banana-ripening warehouse northeast of Rogers Place to a larger renovated building a few blocks further north at 10010 107A Ave.

The project sparked backlash, largely from business owners and community groups in Chinatown, who argued the area already faced significant social disorder due to the high concentration of social services. 

In its decision in November, the development appeal board said Boyle Street's proposed facility did not conform with prescribed land uses for the property.

Boyle Street countered that arguments made by appellants had mischaracterized their services.

Jordan Reiniger stands at a podium at the site of the new development, surrounded by supporters.
Jordan Reiniger says the building is a symbol of belonging that will allow Boyle to provide more timely services. (Craig Ryan/CBC)

Reiniger said Tuesday that Boyle Street disagreed with the board's objection to a ceremonial room where elders could address the trauma of community members, but accepted it to get the development permit.

"We find that to be a very troubling aspect of the decision and something that we're not going to let go," Reiniger said.

To those with safety concerns, he said the new facility, which is across from Victoria School, is part of the solution in Edmonton as it gives people without homes a place to go and the services to move forward.

At a memorial two weeks ago, the community honoured the lives of 49 members who had died in the past three months. Reiniger said the state-of-the-art facility, which includes housing and mental health services, will provide more timely access to services.

'Once in a generation chance to change'

Officials thanked donors for their contributions, large and small, that helped Boyle Street reach 80 per cent of its campaign goal of $28.5 million.

Carman McNary, circle keeper for the Build with Boyle funding campaign, called for Edmontonians to advocate for the project.

"We have a once-in-a-generation chance to change what is happening on the streets of Edmonton," McNary said. 

"The change on our streets will not happen because we get this building built. The change on the streets will happen because the community decides that enough is enough and we lean in and we change it."