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Victoria council to consider mixed-use fire hall that could include library

A potential replacement for Victoria’s Fire Station No. 1 could include other public facilities, such as a library, housing or an emergency operations centre, Victoria councillors have decided.
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Replacing Victoria Fire Station No. 1 on Yates Street could cost about $18 million.

A potential replacement for Victoria’s Fire Station No. 1 could include other public facilities, such as a library, housing or an emergency operations centre, Victoria councillors have decided.

Many fire halls being built today are mixed-use buildings, said Coun. Pam Madoff, citing the new South Granville fire hall in Vancouver, which includes a library.

“There’s other [fire hall] projects across the country that have housing associated with them as well,” Madoff said Thursday during a city council workshop on capital priorities.

Some discussions have already begun with the Justice Institute about the potential for a multi-purpose training centre when a new facility is built, said John Sturdy, assistant director of engineering and public works.

Preliminary estimates peg the cost of replacing the fire hall, at 1234 Yates St., at about $18 million, excluding land or temporary relocation costs. It is estimated to cost about $8 million just to retrofit the 1959-vintage building to upgraded seismic standards but, at some point, major renovations would be needed as the vehicle bays are not big enough for modern fire trucks.

At Coun. Ben Isitt’s suggestion, councillors also asked staff to report back with a comparison of the facility requirements for a neighbourhood fire hall versus a fire hall that could be used as a headquarters, with administrative and emergency operations centre.

“I think we need those two questions [answered] because, if there is an appetite at this council to pursue amalgamation of fire services, I think that comparison is essential,” Isitt said.

City staff have identified the fire hall, the Bay Street Bridge (also known as the Point Ellice Bridge) and the Crystal Pool as the three pieces of city infrastructure in need of millions of dollars of unbudgeted repairs.

The most recent condition assessment of the bridge, built in 1956 on piers that date back to 1902, determined it to be in poor to fair condition with repair estimates in the $11-million range — more if the deck is widened for bike lanes and for sidewalks on either side. However, the assessment says that, with proper maintenance, the bridge has another 50 years of life.

City staff estimate it would cost $6 million to replace Crystal Pool’s mechanical and electrical systems, which would probably extend its life five to 10 years. The total replacement is estimated to be about $58 million.

In June, councillors approved a project charter, including significant public consultation to develop options for the future of the facility, which is in need of major repair or replacement. But because of other council decisions, options are limited.

In 2011, councillors reaffirmed their support for keeping a public pool and fitness centre in the city. Last month, councillors voted to limit any future pool options to those that are consistent with public ownership and operation.

Given the “essential nature” of the bridge and the fire hall work, city staff recommended giving those projects priority over the pool in pursuing grants, and putting the Crystal project charter on hold.

Councillors agreed but only until detailed information on costs associated with Fire Station No. 1, the Bay Street Bridge and the pool replacement or repair have been developed.

“Crystal Pool is a really important asset in our community,” said Coun. Lisa Helps. “If we’re going to ask the public what to do with it, we need to provide them with detailed information of all of our capital infrastructure requirements.”

bcleverley@timescolonist.com