CORNER BROOK — The Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation Band may be landless, but Chief Brendan Sheppard doesn't want it to be homeless.
To meet the needs of the growing band, Qalipu has purchased the West Coast Medical Clinic on Church Street and is also buying the neighbouring, former Majestic Theatre property.
Sheppard said the band currently rents office space in the Majestic building, but as the band expands the services and programs it offers, that space is no longer sufficient.
"We certainly are overcrowded there," said Sheppard of the location. So much so that he shares office space with the band's chief executive officer and the IT person works in the server room.
Sheppard said the former clinic building will be renovated and the band will also continue to occupy space in the Majestic building.
Acquiring property was something Sheppard said the Qalipu Development Corporation had intended to do as it moved forward with economic development, building collateral and moving into other initiatives.
The move will also mean the band will be able to bring all of its staff in the city together as it still maintains an office in the CIBC Building on Main Street.
The band employs more than 36 people across the province. It has aboriginal guardians on rivers and staff at offices in St. George's, Grand Falls-Windsor and Glenwood.
The cost to purchase the medical clinic was about $550,000.
"We were fortunate that we received some funding for that from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada to purchase the building," said Sheppard.
"So basically our cost is going to be on renovating that building to suit the office space that we certainly need."
To cover that cost and the purchase of the Majestic building the band has taken out a mortage that Sheppard estimates at about $1 million.
The money to cover the mortgage will come from administration charges on program money received by the band. Sheppard said this money includes the cost of rent for space to run the programs.
Money will also be generated through tenants in the Majestic building.
Sheppard said the lower level of the building is currently occupied by other tenants and the band has been approached by others looking for space.
The chief is confident the venture "will pay for itself."
Still, he said, the band is being cautious as it moves forward.
"It's certainly a lot ot take on," said Sheppard, but he added it's not something the band council is bothered about.
What it is concerned with is being able to reach the people it will need to as the band formation process ends and elections are held.
"It's going to be one huge task on Qalipu to work this out."
Right now the band has more than 22,000 registered members. The deadline to apply for registration is this November and Sheppard said it will take a couple of years to complete the process. Once completed he figures the band will have between 45,000 and 50,000 members.