Mixing land uses has already been done in several notable Vancouver buildings. There is a child care centre planned for the top floor of the 150 Water Street parkade, and South Granville Vancouver Firehall Number 4 shares its structure with the local branch of the Vancouver Public Library. The Vancouver Public Library branch in Strathcona also has 31 units of housing for single mothers and their kids and was opened in 2017.

But as Lori Culbert in the Vancouver Sun wrote the new Firehall Number 5 in Champlain Heights at the corner of Kerr Street and 54th Avenue will be  unique in Canada. While the new building will house three fire engine bays and ten upstairs rooms for the firemen, four floors of the new building will be assigned to mothers and children “with the priority for those fleeing abusive relationships.”

As Ms. Culbert writes “The unusual emergency-services-and-residential combination is a cost-effective experiment in an expensive city where affordable homes are desperately needed. And on a practical level, if you are a woman escaping violence, what better to live below you than a fire department staffed 24/7?”

Two years ago a firehall in Washington D.C. opened with 55 affordable housing units above it, and at that time was heralded as a precedent in the United States. Calgary does have a mixed use complex for their new Firehall 6 which includes affordable and market housing as well as retail and offices.

And because I knew you would ask~the exterior walls will be heavily insulated to soundproof the two and three bedroom units to muffle siren and engine noise. It is also fire department policy not to turn on sirens in residential areas except when accessing arterial roads.

You can find out more about the new firehall and the joint housing project for this site on the City of Vancouver website here.

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