The Canadian College of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine at 551 Chatham St. was placed in receivership by its board nearly a year ago, with its asking price originally $1.7 million.
“There were a number of interested parties looking at the property,” said Paul Lacerte, the association’s executive director. “We were the first out of the gate to make an offer. Other stakeholders could come in and counter-offer while the matter was in front of the judge, but he accepted it right away.”
The closing date yet to be determined, said Griff Lewis who handled the sale for DTZ Barnicke Commercial Real Estate, but 25 employees of the headquarters are expected to move in by the end of May.
The association, which has a mandate to improve quality of life for aboriginal people, has 25 friendship centres throughout the province, including Victoria. For about nine years, it has rented space in a heritage building at 506 Fort St. that is not seismically upgraded and did not allow the organization to accumulate equity in an asset, Lacerte said. Most friendships centres own their buildings, and now the headquarters is following suit. The association has been shopping for several years, but this is the first building to come up in its price range.
“It’s a beautiful building,” he said. Constructed in 2000, it is well-maintained and its location on the edge of the downtown core made it more affordable. The association will own 6,800 square feet — the bottom three floors of the structure below privately owned condos.
The association’s annual operating budget is about $15 million, mostly from funding transfers from governments for the centres, which can provide programs focused on employment, health, youth and arts, as well as facilities such as computer and phone access, meeting rooms and play and sports areas.
There is a growing need for aboriginal community organizations to support urban aboriginals because both federal and provincial governments increasingly focus on “hard-edged responses to poverty,” such as prison and crime-reduction measures, rather than healing and cultural development, Lacerte said.
The latest federal census figures show 64 per cent of status Indians registered with the federal government and 91 per cent of non-status Indians, as well as Métis, live off reserves, he said.
The association will have “a substantial mortgage” on the Chatham Street building and invites philanthropic partners to help pay it off as soon as possible, perhaps through naming rights. “I think there is a lot of goodwill out there,” Lacerte said.
The Canadian College of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine closed in May 2011 and has been the subject of ongoing legal battles. The college, which had operated for nearly 30 years, had moved into the building in 2002.
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