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Vancouver fire department's headquarters on the move?

Affordable housing considered, but not part of $40M proposal for new hall in Grandview-Woodland.
An artist’s rendering of the proposed redevelopment of No. 9 fire hall at 1805 Victoria Dr., which includes a new headquarters for Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services.

The Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services’ headquarters located in Strathcona is expected to move to a new fire hall in the Grandview-Woodland neighbourhood.

When that move occurs is still unclear.

City council has to first refer a rezoning application for 1805 Victoria Dr. to public hearing — and have it approved — before the estimated $40-million project can proceed. Council will consider a referral report at its Tuesday public meeting.

The project would replace the existing two-storey No. 9 fire hall built in 1959 on the property at Victoria Drive and East 2nd Avenue. The hall is located in a dense neighbourhood of single-family homes and is a block from a nearby elementary school.

The hall has been on the books for replacement since 2019, when the previous city council approved $40 million for its redevelopment. The cost included relocating the city’s 311 call centre from False Creek to the same hall, but that will not occur, according to an email Monday from the city’s communications team.

Transit-oriented development

At the time of approval, a staff report said there was “potential for affordable housing” on the property, which is located one kilometre from the Commercial-Broadway SkyTrain station and a block from bus-busy Commercial Drive.

The current referral report doesn’t indicate housing will be part of the project, and the city confirmed in the same email Monday that there are no plans to add housing to the site.

“Affordable housing was explored for this site, and after completing our due diligence, it was determined that the delivery of social housing at this site was not viable to construct and yielded few units to operate effectively,” the city said.

In November 2023, the provincial government passed legislation for “minimum development objectives” around “transit-oriented areas” to get more housing built. The city’s email referenced the legislation.

“When it was appropriate to confirm uses and consideration of social housing so that the design of the mixed-use building could progress, the current [provincial government] legislation was not in place and the city’s review was based on the applicable policy at the time,” the city said.

Housing at fire halls

Housing on the same site as a fire hall would not be unprecedented in Vancouver.

The department’s relatively new No. 5 fire hall in Champlain Heights is two storeys, with four storeys of affordable housing on top. YWCA Metro Vancouver provides the housing for low-income, woman-led families and their children.

Vancouver’s No. 8 fire hall on Beatty Street is also expected to be redeveloped, with a social housing building and 44-space child-care centre built next door.

The proposal for the new hall in Grandview-Woodland is for a four-storey building, which would include a two-storey structure with five truck bays, and two storeys of office space above.

Access to the truck bays would be from Victoria Drive, and access to the two levels of underground parking  — which the current hall doesn’t have — would be off the lane.

The project calls for 56 parking spots, “as staff typically drive to work due to equipment requirements and the nature of shift work,” according to the staff report, which noted there will be space for 16 bicycles.

The fire department’s headquarters are currently located at its main hall in Strathcona at 900 Heatley Ave. in what is also an aging, non-earthquake-proof building that is challenged for space.

'Surrounded by train tracks'

Capt. Matthew Trudeau, public information officer for the department, said the Strathcona hall currently has an estimated 40 people working in its offices, including Fire Chief Karen Fry and assistant chiefs.

In addition to its age, size and seismic challenges, Trudeau said the main hall’s location has not been ideal for firefighters responding to calls in the neighbourhood.

“We are surrounded by train tracks here,” said Trudeau, who also works out of the hall.

In addition, he said, it’s still an open question when or whether the nearby Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts will be demolished, as approved by a previous council several years ago.

Such disruption and rerouting of roadways could further affect response times, he said.

Trudeau clarified that if council approves the rezoning of the new Grandview-Woodland hall, the main hall in Strathcona will still be staffed with firefighters responding to calls — until a new location is identified and a hall built.

Tuesday’s council meeting begins at 9:30 a.m.

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