The H&R Block building, which currently sits unoccupied on 47 Street, was offered up to the public at a discounted price in a post on the Official Yellowknife Classifieds and Network Group late last week.
The Oct. 9 post by Scott Brass stated that he was taking offers on the 1,500-square-foot structure as it needs to be moved to make way for a new office building. Brass later commented online that the cost to purchase is $5,000, plus moving expenses. There were multiple expressions of interest.
NNSL Media reached out to Brass by Facebook on Saturday but hadn’t received a response as of Tuesday.
Since Aug. 15, H&R Block staff have been providing regular tax and financial assistance at the office building at 5003-48 Street – the next street over – according to H&R Block general manager David Lucas.
“We are actually moving the building and putting in a new building in there,” Lucas said of the lot.
He added that it isn’t clear how long his H&R Block employees will be located at the temporary office location. He said he didn’t know if the existing structure has been officially sold yet, nor does he have a date when a permanent building is to be constructed as there is permitting work still being done.
The H&R Block building was one of the private buildings that the GNWT Department of Health and Social Services listed as a possible location for temporary day shelter space during the winter months, up to March 31, 2021.
The GNWT has expressed the need to provide space for 30 to 50 people in need of shelter due to Covid-19 occupancy restrictions that limit the number of people who can use the day shelter and sobering centre at one time.
Yellowknife city council examined this option during the Sept. 21 governance and priorities committee meeting after councillors refused to lease temporary shelter space to the GNWT at the city’s Mine Rescue Building on 49 Avenue in August.
Several Yellowknife councillors stated in September that the 47 Street lot would be a preferable location for temporary day shelter – if arrangements could be made by the GNWT.
Among other sites mentioned were the Aurora College building between Coyote’s and Lahm Ridge on Franklin Avenue, the City of Yellowknife public library, the library meeting room, the DND Gym at the Multiplex, the bowling alley, the former Northern Frontier Visitor’s Centre lot, the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre parking lot, the pool and tennis courts parking lot, the Multiplex parking lot and the lot where the former YWCA Rockhill Apartments once stood.
The city does not have jurisdiction on where to provide shelter for street-involved people, however council was invited to give its thoughts on an appropriate location at the Sept. 21 governance and priorities committee meeting.
“When it comes to locations that you guys have identified definitely my first choice would probably be H&R Block,” said Coun. Steve Payne during the meeting. “It seems like that would be a good choice because there’s some outside room there.”
Others similarly saw the site as being a positive one because of its central location.
“I think the Aurora College site, the H&R Block site and the bowling alley all fall into the ideal category for me,” said Coun. Julian Morse, noting the proximity to downtown.
Councillors Stacie Smith, Cynthia Mufandaedza, Robin Williams and Rommel Silverio expressed similar positive comments about H&R Block being one appropriate location.
Lucas told NNSL Media that he had not been contacted about the site being a proposed temporary day shelter location, although the owner of the building and lot is Toner Brodeur of Ditab Enterprises, based out of Peace River, Alta.
NNSL Media attempted to reach Brodeur at a phone number provided by H&R Block Peace River, but he wasn’t available Tuesday afternoon.
Lucas said there are usually three to four people working full-time in his office, but during tax season there can be as many as 16 or 17 employees.
NNSL Media sought comment from the GNWT Department of Health and Social Services about the status of the search for a new day shelter location. Responses were not available as of press time Tuesday.