Calgary's Centre for Newcomers has officially opened in its new location, which gives the busy settlement organization a bigger and much more visible presence in the community.
The non-profit agency that helps immigrants and refugees took over the space formerly occupied by two big box stores at Northgate Village, located across from Marlborough Mall on 36th Street N.E.
The centre has a 200-seat auditorium, a storefront cafe run by newcomers as well as child care, a spiritual space and a youth centre.
The new location covers 53,000 square feet and will act as a community hub, not just for employees and clients but for the surrounding community.
"I haven't been able to stop smiling," said president and CEO Anila Lee Yuen.
"We have some final touches, some contractors are still finishing up, but there's a really celebratory feel. We've got all of our staff back here, and the community is welcome to come and take tours as we get settled."
It wasn't easy moving and building a new centre during a pandemic. The project went $2.5 million over budget due to prices skyrocketing during the pandemic.
"And people were getting sick, so there was also a shortage of contractors, and all of these different issues including supply chain problems. It's been a long road," said Lee Yuen.
"The spirit is resiliency. We did it. We got through, and we're going continue on and serve the community," said Lee Yuen.
"Everyone should feel comfortable here and be able to get services and be able to meet new people," she said.
The process of finding a new home started more than five years ago with the centre trying to find a much bigger site but one that was still close to free parking, transit and other settlement agencies and supports in the city's northeast.
"We've had so much community support, so much government support, and we're really grateful. Everybody's all smiles, and all the weight we've been carrying around for so long seems to be lifted."
"Some of us haven't seen each other in two years. So to be able to see each other in person is really delightful."
"There's hope, there's energy," said Lee Yuen.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada is the main funding source for the centre.