It has been said that the building is the oldest purpose-built social service facility in Calgary. It has served social groups throughout its history, beginning in 1911 as the YWCA. It was created as a hostel to address the needs of single, immigrant women, new to the city. It was a state-of-the-art building with Georgian revival architecture, was home of the first Girl Guide troop west of Toronto, and acted as an employment bureau. When women gained the vote, it hosted classes instructing on the process, and it regularly offered other activities including swimming lessons. The original swimming pool was closed in 1941 and the space was used as a dormitory during World War II.
In 1971, the City of Calgary took possession after the YMCA completed a new facility. In 1978, the building faced serious threat of demolition, but thanks to the valiant battle waged by its tenants, and the support of the Calgary community, the building was saved, renovated, and handed over to the tenants for a lease of $1.00 per year. In 1979, this tenant association formed an offical society under the name “The Old Y Centre for Community Organizations” and in 1982 the building was registered as a Provincial Historical Resource. Since then, it has functioned under the umbrella of the tenant organization as affordable office space for dozens of diverse grassroots and non-profit agencies, in sectors ranging from arts and culture, immigrant community associations, youth agencies, LGBTZ community resources, environmental groups, social justice advocacy and more. Recent activities in the building (including regular events, open houses, the Zinefair and membership engament with facility upgrades) have increased public awareness and excitement about the building as a community hub. In 2012, the Old Y became COMMUNITYWISE. This name change reflects a maturation of our vision and an acknowledgement of the role that the facility plays in linking all these diverse groups together, through Calgary’s past, present and future.