Written by: Chris Rider, Executive Director
We have some big news: next month CPAWS Yukon will be moving to a new home! This relocation is the culmination of several years of work from our team, and we believe it is the right move to set us up for ongoing success. But of course, we’re feeling a lot of mixed emotions about it.
We’re excited to be moving into a modern space that will meet the needs of our growing team, but we’re also sad to be leaving a building that we feel profoundly connected to. There is so much history for our organization at 506 Steele St., and we know that many of you will share the emotions that we’re feeling at this time.
That’s why I wanted to take a moment to walk through why we made this decision, and what we can look forward to once we are in our new office.
Why did we decide to move?
The house we are in has a lot of character, and holds a lot of sentimental value for all of us. Unfortunately, it is an older building and while beautiful, it is also energy inefficient and difficult to keep warm.
It was built as a house, not an office, which means that space is not used as efficiently as it could be. This wasn’t a big issue when four or five people worked here, but as the team has grown, the challenges have become more apparent. We’ve been able to make it work up until now by sharing office spaces, and having staff work in open workspaces or other nooks and crannies, but it’s not ideal. Since the pandemic, this has only become more of an issue.
Knowing these challenges, in 2019 we hired an architecture firm to assess the property, to help us consider the best options for the future of the organization. They looked at several ideas, one of which was an overhaul of 506 Steele St., to make it meet the needs of CPAWS Yukon for years to come. We learned that raising money for this kind of work is extremely challenging, and that there are many uncertainties when it comes to renovating a building like ours. These issues made the idea of the renovation project feel far too precarious for a non-profit like ours.
We also briefly considered working with a developer to convert the lot into a brand new commercial/residential property, but it was too big a risk, with huge amounts of uncertainty for us. We want to focus on protecting nature, not construction.
Ultimately, it became clear that purchasing a newer space in an existing building was the best path forward.
Where are you moving to?
Our new office will be at 101-301 Hawkins St., right across the road from our friends at the Yukon Conservation Society (we’re calling it conservation corner). We will be taking over the ground floor commercial space that was built by Kobayashi + Zedda in 2008.
It is a little smaller than the current building, but it’s modern and well insulated, and the space can be used much more efficiently to provide proper offices for our team of 9 people.
The office was previously home to the Kwanlin Dun First Nation lands department, and before that an engineering firm. Over the coming weeks, we will be working with a contractor to complete the modifications that will give it the look and feel of CPAWS Yukon, and then we hope to move in before the end of January 2022.
One of our priorities is to make sure it’s a great space for events, and we are really looking forward to welcoming people to join us there whenever it is safe!
What is happening to 506 Steele St.?
We will be selling our current building, and it is due to hit the real estate market on December 6th. We hope that the buyer will choose to keep the building as it currently stands, and that they will give it the love it deserves.
Can you afford this?
We are able to afford this because of the foresight of Juri Pepree and the rest of the staff who were involved in the purchase of our current building. Over the years it has appreciated in value, making it possible for us to raise the majority of the funds we need to complete this move when we sell it. We will also use some money from our reserve fund and we are taking on a very manageable mortgage, which will be paid off over the next twenty years.
Is there anything else?
Yes, one thing. We know there are many, many memories from the years that CPAWS Yukon has been in this office. Most are wonderful, some are from times of challenge. If the COVID-19 outbeak makes it possible, we hope to be able to welcome people to connect with it one last time in January, before we move.
In the meantime, if you have a memory you’d like to share, please add it to the comments here, or on facebook. It’s important to us that we keep these stories alive!
Thank you and we’ll see you at our new office soon!