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Saint Lawrence Centre back to drawing board on new location search

The search for a new location for the Saint Lawrence Centre has stalled. Over the last few months, the centre and Northreach Society, formally HIV North, had been talking about moving to the old Swan City Auction building on 97 Avenue.

Due to concerns from surrounding people and business owners, Project Lead Jared Gossen says that’s not going to happen anymore.

“The community push back was quite significant and so we spent some time with some community leaders in the proposed new neighbourhood and quickly decided that maybe our potential presence in the new building would muddy the waters.”

The centre had been running out of Rotary House since 2015 but shut its doors at the end of March to allow Rotary House to sort out overcrowding issues. It announced back in May it would not reopen at its past location and instead find a new space.

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Gossen says he and Northreach staff only heard from two people but estimates that city development officers, Downtown Business Association and a local lawyer received dozens of calls from people concerned about their safety and things like increased foot traffic.

He says he’s also heard people say that the centre should be moved away from the downtown core and away from other people which he argues is just not an option as most of the people they help are located downtown.

Gossen says at this point if they don’t find a new location soon he doesn’t think there’s a place for them in the city.

“If we are unable to provide our services out of some location by winter, Grande Prairie will be in a really rough spot. That’s heartbreaking but unfortunately, maybe that’s the decision that Grande Prairie is making right now that these services, although essential, maybe don’t have an appropriate home within the way that we’ve set up our community.”

While Gossen says he will continue looking for a new building, Northreach still plans to move forward with the original location.

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