British Columbia

Victoria plans new fire hall in downtown development

In a first for Victoria, the city plans to work with a private developer to build a new fire hall and emergency operations centre inside a mixed-use development downtown.

Mixed-use building could see housing or office space above garage for emergency vehicles

The City of Victoria has struck a deal with Dalmatian Developments Limited Partnership to build a fire hall and emergency operations centre as part of a new development downtown. (Jawl Residential)

In a first for Victoria, the city plans to work with a private developer to build a new fire hall and emergency operations centre inside a mixed-use development in the downtown.

The partnership would see the developer build a $35.9-million facility for the fire department on the first two floors of a new building planned on Johnson Street, near Cook Street, including space for more than a dozen fire trucks and emergency vehicles.

The upper floors of the building would be home to office space or housing.

The partnership is expected to save the city about $12 million, compared with building a stand-alone fire hall, said Mayor Lisa Helps.

"I would love if it's a fire hall with rental housing on top, and I would love, love if it was a fire hall with affordable housing on top," she said. 

"We will leave that to the developer and see what comes forward."

The options for the floors above the fire hall will take shape after a community consultation, the developer said.

"Now that this proposed agreement is public, we are looking forward to consulting with the community to discuss an appropriate mix of uses prior to creating a proposal for the overall development," said David Jawl, director of development for Dalmatian Developments.

Mixed-use plan 'paramount'

A mixed-use model has been tried in other cities such as Vancouver where affordable housing was built above a fire hall, said Victoria Fire Chief Paul Bruce.

"Certainly in a location like Victoria where property values are going up horrendously, the idea of having some sort of mixed-use application for this project was paramount," he said.

The city is looking to replace the fire department's headquarters located on Yates Street, which is not seismically upgraded.

The new facility is to meet the latest post-seismic standards, meaning it will be functional following a large earthquake.

It will also be home to the city's emergency operations centre and space will be leased to B.C. Emergency Health Services for four ambulances.

"It's important, very important, especially knowing that we are in a very active seismic zone to have that kind of assurance that we have somewhere that will be able to withstand an event and that we can still manage the city from," Bruce said.

Mayor confident in contract

Under the terms of the deal, the city will purchase the floors of the building that will house the public safety services. 

Helps said she is confident the plan is properly costed out unlike for the new Johnson Street Bridge project in Victoria. 

The bridge opens later this month, years late and tens of millions of dollars over budget.

"This design is 100 per cent and it's been looked at by at least two third-party experts to make sure that we have got the right fire hall for the right price," Helps said.

Victoria city council will decide on Thursday whether to approve financing plan for the project.

Following that approval, the developer will have six months to submit a rezoning application for the site.