Victoria is looking to embark on a unique project in the City’s history, with the announcement that the proposed new No. 1 fire hall and public safety building be part of a multi-use development downtown.
The project is different for the City in that it would combine three functions that are frequently linked but have separate organizational structures: the fire department, the ambulance service and the City’s emergency management program.
Placing the heart of the City’s disaster management in the main fire hall mirrors what View Royal did with their new public safety building a few years back. Although that jurisdiction is much smaller than Victoria, the concept of having the fire department’s top managers close at hand in the event of a natural disaster or other public emergency is similar and makes a lot of sense. Some of those individuals already play leadership roles in disaster management for the City.
Other similarities exist, like the fact both departments are or were in original buildings built back in the 1950s, when fire protection and the delivery of emergency services were vastly different.
The VFD deserves a new main hall and under the financial framework in place and the partnership with a private builder, at least for now, taxpayers won’t be on the hook to kick in extra on any cost overruns of this project. It seems reminiscent of the deal the City struck with RG Properties to construct Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre, although RG continues to manage the City owned venue.
The proposed site seems a little unusual, given that the area is becoming surrounded by high rise condo and rental buildings. But if the financial aspects of the plan work better than rebuilding on the same site further up Yates Street, and no geographical challenges exist with being located on Johnson Street, why not?
Council gets the final say on this plan, but having already approved where the money will come from for this proposal, we doubt the plan will face much opposition around the table.