Finding Longer-Term Space

Finding Longer-Term Space

Some building owners may offer deeply discounted space if you create a compelling case

I’ve written fieldnotes about pop-up and interim spaces but here’s a few tips for arts organizations wanting to secure longer term space, including (almost) free space.

Some building owners may offer deeply discounted space if you create a compelling case. Typically this means reassuring building owners and their agents that having you in their space will not cost them more funds than leaving it empty (e.g. utilities) and that you are not exposing them to any liability or reputational risk.

Here are some first steps that artists, collectives, and organizations should take before approaching building owners or their agents:

  • Have you developed a one-page case for support document for potential building owners and their agents with your why, what, who, when, and duration for using the space? Have you narrowed down where in the city you’d like to be?
  • Have you determined what your use is defined as in the Alberta Building Code and The City of Calgary Land Use Bylaw? Once you do this, you can determine what building types and land use designations allow your use. Once you find a building, you can determine if it has been built to accommodate your building code occupancy classification and you can see if your use is permitted on that site. Here are some helpful links:
  • Do you have non-profit status, i.e. have you registered with the Provincial Government?
    • Note that if registered non-profits or charities are using a space in Calgary, the building owner may not be required to pay property tax on that portion of the space. This is an incentive for building owners and their agents to rent to non-profits or charities. So, even if you are not paying rent, you could be saving the building owner money. Visit for more information.
  • Are there any other benefits that the building owner, their agents or other tenants will get from having your group in the space?
  • Have you determined a budget of what you might be able to pay? Many building owners and their agents ask that utilities costs be covered.
  • Do you have liability and other forms of insurance?
  • Other Risks: Have you clearly and accurately explained how your group will use the space? Will your use impact other (paying) tenants? Will your use damage their building?
    • Think like a building owner, anticipate what they would see as financial and reputational risks from having your group in their space, and address them upfront.
  • Have you developed protocols around COVID-19 both for your safety and to reassure building owners that you will not break any public health laws?

Once you’ve found a space, your work is not quite done—you may need to get City permits to use the space. The City of Calgary offers help at or email

And one last question: Do you need permanent space? Or would interim or pop-up space be of interest? Read my past fieldnote on pop-ups and interim spaces to learn more.

Joni Carroll is Calgary Arts Development’s Arts Spaces Consultant, striving for abundant, appropriate, affordable arts spaces in Calgary through her work with arts organizations, space developers, policymakers, and other stakeholders.

Joni has a particular passion for the arts and began her relationship with Calgary Arts Development by volunteering for the Arts Spaces Committee in 2006. Additionally, she has volunteered on the boards of other spaces initiatives in Calgary including Doors Open YYC and the Calgary Heritage Authority.

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