Fire hall and housing project goes to open house

A rezoning application, which if approved would see Fire Hall No. 5 knocked down and replaced with a six-storey building featuring a new fire hall and four floors of supportive housing units above it, is the subject of an open house April 1.

The housing portion is meant for low-income women and their children and will include 31 two and three-bedroom units.

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Fire Hall No. 5, located at 3090 East 54th, was built in 1952, but it doesn’t meet current seismic standards, and equipment and training needs have changed, so the building is considered out of date.

The City of Vancouver, Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services and YWCA Metro Vancouver are involved in the replacement project, which has been in the works since 2011.

An open house held last June found that 78 per cent of those who attended supported the project or were neutral. That said, Heritage Vancouver raised the alarm about the fate of several of Vancouver’s modernist fire halls in 2014, including Fire Hall No. 5, which was designed by city hall architects Townley & Matheson.

Fire Hall No. 5 landed on the organization’s Top 10 Endangered Sites list that year, along with six other modernist firehalls — Numbers 2, 7, 8, 9, 17 and 20.  

A spokesperson for the City of Vancouver could not be reached by the Courier’s print deadline.

Arthur Mills, VP of Housing Services for YWCA Metro Vancouver, told the Courier that statistics indicate single mothers are underserved in the region in terms of housing and that supportive housing can make a significant difference in their lives and help them along the road to economic independence.

“Our main client group is single mothers and their children. What we’ve found is if you can provide single mothers with some stable housing, our experience is they can stop, collect their breath and make some decisions as to what they want to do next,” Mills said. “We’ve seen examples of women who’ve gone back to school and managed to increase their education and consequently go forward to better jobs.”

The location of the site is considered ideal for family housing because it’s near two primary schools and one high school. It’s also close to a library, supermarket, two community centres, parks and bus routes.

Most tenants will pay 30 per cent of their income for a unit.

“What we will look at is a mix of income. Whether or not we will do some units at below market is a question for us. But in the main, all of our housing serves women at low income levels and normally our rent structure is 30 per cent,” Mills explained.

The city approved a budget of $13.1 million for the construction of the replacement firehall. It includes the installation and removal of a temporary fire hall and equipment for the new firehall. In 2013, city council approved up to $9 million for the construction of the housing portion of the project.

“We’re providing $2.2 million with an additional $1.3 million coming from other partners,” said Mills who added that if the rezoning is approved, and all goes well, the building could be ready by late 2017 or early 2018.

The open house runs from 5 to 8 p.m., April 1 at Fire Hall No. 5, 3090 East 54th Ave.

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