FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Reid Henry
May 13, 2014
The King Edward School project – a dodgy history since declared surplus to school board needs a number of years ago, a sweetheart deal between the Klein government and developer Michael Lobsinger that didn’t work out. More recently, a sale, some hype, a plan, a ‘new on the scene’ entity – cSPACE - developing it, and a relative newcomer to town (some smart guy from Taronta) leading the venture. Who is he, what is that, and what can we expect?
Q - Who is behind the KingEdwardSchool redevelopment?
A – cSPACE Projects.
Q. – who is behind that?
A. – Calgary Arts Council, The Calgary Foundation and The City of Calgary.
Q. – how much will it cost?
A. - $30 million, not all raised yet …plus developers buying parts of the project, partnering for an overall scope project in the range of $75 million. LEED Gold ambitions.
Q. – what will it be?
A. – 2 yrs. of master planning have formed a project that will house arts community tenants, partner with developers to create rental housing, own/rent townhouse units that combine studio and living space in and around an iconic sandstone school in the Marda Loop neighbourhood.
cSPACE Projects has an eight-member board, begun with a start up grant from the City of Calgary, a multi-year funding commitment from The Calgary Foundation and a CEO with two first names. Or is that two last names? Who is Reid Henry?
Organizations and projects, to be successful, need two things. A soul. And a leader. This intrepid reporter set out in search of both and found them entwined in one guy – Reid Henry. Who is this guy from the centre of the universe and why do we need him to lead it?
cSPACE, Reid tells me, is one of six such organizations in North America where community, philanthropy and arts come together in such a way to restore buildings, create art-space and do so sustainably.
Let's start at his beginning. He’s not from Toronto – but from Alberta. Born in Edmonton, two older brothers, mom and dad from academia; dad a prof at U of A, mom an administrator at AthabascaUniversity. BA in Urban Geography from U of A, Masters of Environmental Design from U of C. Heritage Planner, City of Edmonton, Edmonton Downtown Development Corp …. then off to Toronto, Artscape, projects – and then a big move back-west, in June 2010 to begin the creation of cSpace.
He claims to have had a stable upbringing. At first he thought he’d be an architect, “… until I learned I couldn’t draw”.
His view: “Ego-less designers [really, is there such a thing?] creating good urbanism can send a signal of where Calgary is going.”
As I put notebook away, Reid alluded to ‘several projects’ on the radar screen, too soon to talk about or identify, that will be opportunity driven ones – aimed at embedding the arts community in street-level developments.
I asked Reid how he sees business, for restoring historically important facilities and supporting arts groups … over the over the next quarter?
… demand for affordable tenant space, positioned for investment, operational soundness, cost recovery.
And over the next 5 years?
… philanthropy, a driving element of our model, has been flood-affected. Yet, there is new money. We have to differentiate ourselves. Our ability to attract support from philanthropists and the investment community will be driven by portfolio health.
What qualities distinguish your preferred colleagues, collaborators and suppliers?
… passion, pragmatism, sense of humour. I don’t need flaky people in my life.
What distinguishes you that causes people/employers to choose Reid Henry, why do they do business with you, why have they hired you, over your competitors?
… passion, pragmatism, sense of humour! A sense of purpose, an ability to execute. I’ve created cSPACE from the outset. It has a lot of me in it. Community, creativity, collaboration and change – a set of values about how and why I work.
What do you lose sleep over, what do you worry about?
… health. Exercise, keeping the balance. I love this job, and have a great family life.
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life, or that was a major turning point?
… nothing forms you like a child. Making the move to Calgary – always driven by community needs but serving someone else’s projects. I had a need/desire to be part of another grand building somewhere. Darryl Cariou, mentor and colleague since Edmonton days.
Work life balance?
… absolutely. Start ups take a lot of time – lots of event, lots of evenings. My child (she’s 2) is my #1 focus. Volleyball (played/toured competitively in university days), spin biking, yoga. My wife Jillian Frechette is Director of Marketing and Digital Media for the Calgary Flames so she is busy too – lots of home games. We still have a cottage near Toronto.
What do you read?
… lots of trade magazines. Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly.
… Audi (he couldn't remember the year or the model number - but his eyes lit up when he talked about restoring a ’72 Camaro when he was in high school)
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