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Vancouver got $49.1M from the province, so what will it be spent on?

Fire department will get $3-million temporary annex at Union and Gore streets.
The No. 2 fire hall at Main and Powell streets will have a temporary annex built a few blocks away at Union and Gore streets to provide more room for firefighters and vehicles. The annex is expected to be in service before the end of 2025. Photo Mike Howell

A one-time $49.1-million injection of cash from the provincial government to the City of Vancouver will help fund and accelerate a variety of capital projects, including adding a $3-million temporary annex in the Downtown Eastside for firefighters.

Vancouver council approved Wednesday a city staff recommendation to spend $25.5 million of the $49.1 million on at least six projects, with details on how the remaining $23.6 million will be allocated available within 12 months.

The fire hall annex will be built using a previous modular building used in the redevelopment of No. 5 fire hall and a large tent from No. 17 fire hall. Council heard from staff that most of the $3-million cost will be to prepare a foundation and hook up services to the annex.

The annex will be built on green space at Union Street and Gore Avenue, on the opposite corner of the temporary modular housing complex at 258 Union St. known as Nora Hendrix Place.

Armin Amrolia, deputy city manager, said the annex is necessary to address overcrowding at the No. 2 fire hall, where up to 14 firefighters per shift work inside the cramped building at Main and Powell streets.

No. 2 hall is also not big enough to accommodate one of its medic-rescue trucks, which is parked outside and has had its windows smashed and tires slashed. Firefighters’ personal vehicles have also been vandalized.

The city hired security services last fall to patrol the hall.

Busiest hall in B.C., if not Canada

Council heard from staff that no funds have been allocated in the current capital plan for redevelopment of the hall, which is a 1970s-era building that has been modified over the years.

It is believed to be the busiest hall in B.C., if not Canada, as Glacier Media learned in November 2022 during a ride-along with 14 firefighters, who were dispatched to fires, overdoses, alarms and calls for medical assistance.

A city staff report said the hall is six times busier than the average hall in Vancouver. The number of firefighters at the hall increased in recent years because of council-approved measures to respond to a spike in calls, particularly overdoses and fires.

The annex is expected to be fully operational before the end of 2025.

In February, the provincial government announced the creation of the Growing Communities Fund, which provides a one-time $1-billion grant for infrastructure projects across B.C.

Vancouver learned in March that it would receive $49.1 million and began to consider projects that fit the criteria of the money, which must be spent on projects within five years.

Beatty bike lane

The five other projects are:

• Converting three temporary public plazas to permanent spaces and using some of the money to complete a turf field at Moberly Park and build a spray park at Ross Park ($10 million). Council had earlier approved in the 2023-2026 capital plan $5.8 million to make the temporary plaza at Main and 14th Avenue permanent and upgrade smaller plazas and public spaces.

• Upgrading a two-block section of the Beatty Street protected bike lane  — between Smithe and Georgia streets in front of BC Place Stadium — to a permanent configuration ($2 million).

• Transportation safety improvements, including measures to reduce traffic speed on Cornwall Avenue, upgrade pedestrian crossings, add one “pedestrian scramble” and implement 15 “slow zones” with 30 km/h limits in select neighbourhoods ($3 million).

• Construction of the $85-million Marpole-Oakridge Community Centre begins this fall. An additional $3 million from the Growing Communities Fund will allow the project to include an outdoor amphitheatre and additional multi-purpose room space.

• Renovations to the central children’s library include adding dedicated space for children with sensory needs, new spaces for children 6 to 12 for science, technology, engineering, art and math learning, seismic and acoustic upgrades, an accessible parents’ room and more shelving ($4.5 million).

Other projects that could receive funds via the Growing Communities Fund include renewal of the Aquatic Centre, suicide prevention fencing on the Granville Bridge, more public washrooms across the city and construction of more sports fields and baseball diamonds.

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