An Alberta construction worker shortage is putting the city’s skyline on edge, with companies looking to locate workers to build buildings that will serve a growing number of people.
City officials say they’ve had no shortage of work for months, but that there’s been little progress since the end of April, when a fire burned through a building that was being built.
That fire destroyed most of the building, leaving thousands of people homeless and forced the city to put out an emergency call for more than 1,000 construction workers.
The fire at the building is still under investigation and the city says the work has been delayed due to the lack of work.
The city has set aside a $4.8-million fund to pay for workers, but some companies are still seeking work for workers who were hired but didn’t receive training, said city spokesperson Julie Gelfand.
The province is also working with the city on a contract for up to 25 workers, she said.
Calgary is working to get as many as 200 workers to work on the city as fast as possible, she added.
“We need people on site right away, we need the contractors to be here by the end on Monday,” Gelfan said.
“It’s not just the construction, it’s everything else.”
Calgary also has more than 200,000 square metres of space on the west side of the city, which could be used for a growing collection of homes, apartment buildings and retail stores, said City of Calgary spokesperson Julie Pecora.
“There are about 500 to 600 vacant properties in that area,” she said, adding the city has already begun to work with contractors on a few of those.
“In terms of the total number of units we’re talking about, it could be up to 1,500, it might be 2,500.”
Pecora said the city is also using some of the space to work in an old warehouse that once housed a gas station.
She said the project is expected to take about five to six months to complete.
The Calgary Fire Service says it’s also being urged to work quickly to find a contractor to work the building as quickly as possible.
“If there are no available contractors, it is a very difficult decision to take on,” said Capt. John Mowat.
“I think if we do that, we can find a good contractor.”
Fire crews are working around the clock to save the building.
“The firefighting operations are being stretched to their limit,” said Fire Chief Kevin McLean.
“We are going to do everything we can to save this building and that’s all we can do.”