Clark Builders - The Mustard Seed

All is well that ends well. When The Mustard Seed, a Calgary-based nonprofit organization that provides housing and other services to homeless people, proposed a development of affordable housing in Calgary in 2006, the surrounding community did not embrace the project. But by engaging the community and the neighbors in open and transparent communication – and establishing parameters for how employees and clients of The Mustard Seed would operate within the community – the charitable organization received approval from the city in 2009.

The construction phase of the project began in July 2011 when the office building that previously occupied the space for the new development was demolished, and work began to erect a 12-story building with three levels of underground parking. The exterior façade of the building was designed to blend in with surrounding structures on the west side, and to brighten the neighborhood with white paneling on the north and south sides of the residential complex.

Team Work

Financial support for the Mustard Seed project came from the federal, provincial and city governments, which provided $35 million. Private donations amounted to $20 million and The Mustard Seed organization provided $5 million itself.

The project is on track for its scheduled completion in October. “We have not had any issues at all with the construction of this building; it has all gone without a hitch,” says Chris Lanting, project manager for Clark Builders. The uneventful completion of the project is a credit to the teamwork of its design, construction and financial partners, consisting of local firm BCW Architects, Clark Builders, Williams Engineering Canada Inc. and the Altus Group, a real estate development consulting firm.

Location and Amenities

The 224 affordable units have been designed to help homeless people transition into a more favorable situation that will enable them to move forward, find jobs and become self-sufficient. The Mustard Seed residential complex is located close to Calgary’s downtown and is easily accessible by public transportation.

The building will have a 24-hour secure lobby and the residences will be either one-bedroom or studio units with private bathrooms, kitchens and bedrooms. 21 of the 196 studio units will be handicap accessible. “Those units will have lower kitchen counters and handicap-accessible bathtubs with grab bars, and they’ll be distributed throughout the building,” Lanting explains.

The residential complex will be complemented by 76 spaces on three levels of underground parking, as well as 158 bicycle stalls. The building will also host retail spaces at the ground level and an administrative and program area on the second floor.

The retail spaces will be divided into two areas, one occupied by The Mustard Seed Café, staffed by residents of the building and accessible to anybody in the community. The second area is to be occupied by a community-focused tenant that is yet to be determined.

Mustard Seed is a nonprofit organization that works from three locations in Alberta to address the root causes of poverty through the delivery of basic services, housing and employment. “We believe the community has the power to print about positive change in the individual, and that every individual has the potential to bring about positive change in the community,” the group says.

Giving Back

Clark Builders’ team is proud to be part of this effort to help the less fortunate in their area. “The biggest thing about this project for me is that it’s a great project for the city of Calgary,” Lanting says. “It’s going to help people get off the street and help them have a better life.”

The construction management company has helped The Mustard Seed in a variety of fundraising events in the past. In May 2012, its employees donated coffee supplies and $1 for every cup of coffee they had consumed the previous month. The final result was a donation of 618 pounds of sugar, 48 cans of Coffee-mate, 300 packages of hot chocolate, plus iced tea and lemonade and a monetary donation of $2,800.

Clark Builders’ history of support will reach a new milestone in October, when the doors of The Mustard Seed residential complex open. “The building should begin to welcome its new residents as soon as we hand the project over to the owners,” Lanting says.

People First

Clark Builders compromise with doing what is right starts with the people in its own organization. The construction company, funded in 1974 by Andy Clark, was included in 2013 on the “50 Best Employers in Canada” list for the fourth year in a row.

Approximately 280 Canadian Companies participated in a confidential survey measuring the employees’ level of engagement. An estimated 190,000 employees participated evaluating companies for the survey.

The President and CEO of Clark Builders, Paul Verhesen credits not the company, but its employees with  making it into this list for the fourth consecutive year.

“It confirms what we already believe to be true; the Team at Clark Builders is one of the most passionate, enthusiastic and skilled in our industry,” he said on the company’s web site. “Our people are dedicated to the growth of this company and the communities in which we serve. I have a tremendous sense of pride in the integrity and commitment of this team.” Verhesen considers being entered in the list of best employers in Canada an honor.

Clark Builders has grown over the years to a staff of more than 700 people distributed throughout northern Canada in Calgary, Saskatoon, Fort McMurray and Yellowknife, with headquarters in Edmonton. On the company’s website, Verhesen notes that “Clark Builders is a people company that happens to be really great at construction.”

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