Renovation projects are underway, but it’s business as usual for the Agapè Centre .
“We don’t want to close our doors to those who need us. It’s the whole reason we’re doing the work, and we are doing everything we can to keep services running,” said the Agapè Centre executive director Alyssa Blais.
The building will undergo many changes during the 18-week construction plan. The much needed infrastructure improvements include: removal of hazardous designated substances remaining in the 1950s-era building; replacement of the weathered main entrance stairs with a new ramp and stair; parking and walkway improvements; replacement of single-glazed windows and the building’s heating and ventilation systems, which have reached the end of their design lives; complete washroom renovations throughout the building to improve sanitary conditions and barrier-free accessibility.
The modifications will create a safer, more secure and warmer space to serve people in a more dignified way.
“Bourgon Construction, our construction manager, has been accommodating,” said Blais. “They understand that so many people rely on us, and they’re working to make sure that we can stay open during the process.”
Food bank and soup kitchen services will continue to be provided with regular hours, and the resale store ‘New For You’ will remain open (though a portion of the retail space will be sealed off temporarily).
‘New For You’ relies on its sales to make up a large portion of the operating budget for the charity, which provides food and clothing to more than 1,000 people each month.
“We NEED people to keep shopping in our store,” she said.
“Some days will be loud, and the store will lose some space for a while, but we want to make sure our customers know that our dedicated staff and volunteers will continue to restock the store daily.”
The building campaign is still ongoing, but the work had to be started in order for it to be completed by the winter, since the current heating system will not make it through another season.
“The Agape Centre is fortunate to be located in such a spacious, solid building, but having been built in the early 50s, with only patchwork renovations done over the years, the time has come for the replacement of most or all of the building’s main systems, along with improvements to accessibility,” said Chris Markell, Bourgon Construction’s President and Project Manager. “The management team prepared a list of priorities so that we could help them phase the work into cost-effective parcels.”
Work on the exterior west-side entrance has already begun. The stairs, vestibule and elevator have been removed, to make room for an accessibility ramp, thanks to a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation.
There are also some exciting changes to the way services are provided coming with the renovations. The food bank is being redesigned which will change the way it operates, and a clothing referral room, separate from the store, is being added so clients can come and shop for clothes with privacy.
“Bourgon Construction and Architecture 49 / WSP Group are proud to be working with Agape on the overall planning of this important community project,” said Markell.
Work is expected to be completed by the end of October 2015.