Edmonton Town hall lays out possibility of a new Jewish community centre

(Edmonton) – The Jewish Federation of Edmonton is proposing to purchase the old Scouts building at 14205 – 109 Avenue for a new Jewish community centre (JCC). A town hall was held Tuesday night where almost 130 people attended to hear how the Facilities and Space Committee arrived at choosing this property.

Those who donated to the 2022-23 United Jewish Appeal campaign are eligible to vote at the December 6 annual general meeting if the Federation should move forward in purchasing lands and buildings for a new JCC.

There will be more communication leading up to the vote. Here is a summary of the questions from town hall attendees and responses. If you have a question, please send it to info@edjfed.org and we will do our best to respond.

How did the committee arrive at the decision to recommend this building?  

The committee has met regularly since it was established in February 2023. It extensively reviewed historical documents and prior community consultations. Committee members determined a geographic area from west of the Anthony Henday to 124 Street, from 111 Street down to Lessard. They worked with a realtor to view any property that was on the market in this area, including industrial properties and car dealerships. A request for proposals was also sent to six different agencies to determine if there were additional options that were not yet on the market, as well as to both school boards for vacant school sites and the Archdiocese for churches.

The committee also spoke with the JCC Association of North America and other community leaders in Canada to determine some best practices with similar size communities. It met with an urban planner and established a set of six criteria in order to objectively compare properties. Each criteria was given a weighting. The result was an objective rubric that could be used to consistently evaluate and compare every option.

What is the cost of this new facility?

The building’s listing price was $2.4-million, and we can confirm that our accepted offer is below that asking price. The cost of building renovations is still being evaluated. There is $5.6-million invested from the sale of the former JCC and these funds cannot be used for another purpose. We intend that any funds remaining after purchase and renovations will be put towards operations.

Why aren’t existing facilities in the Jewish community being considered instead of a new one?

As part of the process, a letter was sent to all community presidents. Some have expressed interest in possibly being a tenant and/or using swing offices and meeting spaces. Unfortunately, there were no situations in which it makes sense to align specifically with an existing facility. There has been a demand for a secular facility to accommodate all members of the community and their families, and to welcome the broader community as well. This is supported by the most recent census data that suggests about 75 per cent of Jewish Edmontonians do not affiliate to any synagogue. We have also heard from many Jewish youth that they would like a non-denominational gathering place. We would, however, be happy to collaborate with Jewish leaders throughout our community in the creation of this new JCC.

How will this new facility accommodate the needs of Jewish youth?

Should the purchase of this new facility be finalized, next steps will include establishing a committee to determine what, exactly, will be incorporated into this new JCC. While there are communal spaces, and we have discussed the potential of a dedicated teen and youth lounge is a top priority. The multipurpose space can host fitness classes, conventions, or movie night.

How secure will this new building be?

We have considered safety from numerous angles. First, the main floor of the building being above grade is a major factor in mitigating safety issues. We will also have secure entry into the facility through one entryway only, though there will be numerous emergency exits. A security expert will be brought in to help with the initial design and ensure it adheres to best practices. We take member safety very seriously and it is a key priority in identifying the new building for the JCC.

What’s the maximum event capacity?

The multi-purpose space has a maximum capacity of 200, with tables and seating. This is the largest space in the new building. We do still have the opportunity to use other facilities’ spaces, such as those at Edmonton synagogues, if higher capacity is needed.

What is the condition of the building being considered for purchase?

This building is in great condition! The interior of the building has been gutted by the current owners, so there is no potential for issues being hidden ‘behind the walls,’ so to speak. Engineers have established that the shell is well constructed and are providing further reports. The building is approximately 60 years old, though the interior would be modern as it will be all new construction. The investigation of the building conditions are still ongoing and will be completed by the December 6 vote.

How big is the building?

This building is approximately 19,000 square feet. Ceilings throughout the building are approximately nine feet high (before renovations), with the ceilings in the multi-purpose area reaching around 18 feet in height. The spacious basement and main floor are each around 8,000 square feet, while the top floor (including offices) is approximately 3,000 square feet.

Will the building be accessible?

Yes, the building will be fully accessible. Existing exterior ramps are up to code and can be used moving forward. An elevator will be included in the building renovation, as well.

As mentioned above, if you have any questions, please send them to info@edjfed.org

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