Marpole’s old firehall to become neighbourhood house

Marpole residents will soon have a neighbourhood house operating out of the old firehall at 70th and Hudson. The city-owned heritage building was damaged in a flood in 2013, but it’s being renovated and is expected to be ready for occupancy by the fall of 2018.

Other community programs had operated out of the building since the mid-1980s, prior to the flood.

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In late January, city council selected the Association of Neighbourhood Houses of B.C. (ANHBC) as the new operator of Marpole Place.

South Vancouver Neighbourhood House, one of the ANHBC’s oldest neighbourhood houses, will oversee the setup of the new centre.

Deb Bryant, ANHBC’s CEO, said the organization is currently working on the program mix, but Marpole Place will operate like a “classic neighbourhood house,” which includes some work with seniors, such as a drop-in program or formal adult daycare program, work with youth and work with young families.

Details are being ironed out.

“We’ve got a pretty strong connection with the Marpole Oakridge Community Centre. What we’d like to do is have Marpole Place be a gathering point for young people that live south of 70th — maybe to transport them up to the community centre for programs that are already operating or to do some kind of outpost programs for young people,” she said.

Other initiatives will likely involve food and food security.

“The core of our work is what we call community development or community building, so sort of a drop-in area for neighbours. We quite often do work to bring people together to look at local issues in the neighbourhood,” added Bryant.

For example, if residents see the need for a particular program such as a conversation group for English-as-a-second-language learners, a volunteer group could start one up.

“A lot of what we’ll be waiting to see is who comes forward out of the neighbourhood and what are their ideas and primary concerns, and we’ll try help accommodate that,” Bryant said.

It’s the first time the ANHBC has opened a new neighbourhood house in a decade. It currently runs six in Vancouver — Marpole Place will be its seventh. (It also has a neighbourhood house in Crescent Beach, and it operates an outdoor camp in Port Moody at Camp Sasamat.)

Bryant said studies by the City of Vancouver and Vancouver Coastal Health have revealed there’s a lack of social infrastructure in Marpole, especially at its south end.

Marpole’s population is also expected to grow by 50 per cent by 2041 and it’s considered a higher needs community because there are larger numbers of renters, single-parent families, children in low-income families and immigrants.

“There’s a real concentration of people who maybe don’t have a lot of space inside their homes, have less affluence [and therefore less] access to paid services,” she said. “There’s a little bit of a desert of social services there, especially since the flood because that building was a real cornerstone for that neighbourhood for quite a while.”

noconnor@vancourier.com

@naoibh

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