04/01/2015 11:15 EDT | Updated 06/01/2015 05:59 EDT

New Champlain Heights fire hall to include social housing for single mothers

A fire hall in Vancouver's Champlain Heights neighbourhood is slated to be replaced with an innovative new building that combines a working fire hall with affordable housing for single mothers and their families.

Vancouver Fire Hall No. 5 first opened in 1952. The cement building now sits in a busy, growing residential neighbourhood, but it was once known as Fort Apache because of its then remote location.

"When it was built out here, there was nothing but bush and trees," Asst. Fire Chief Dan Wood told The Early Edition.

"It was sort of a remote fire hall. Now she sits in disrepair."

The current building, which does not meet seismic codes, houses two fire trucks. However, the driveway is too short to park the trucks without diverting pedestrians onto 54th Avenue, which sees steady traffic.

31 units for women-led families

The new building would include room for three trucks, in anticipation of the growing population as the nearby East Fraserlands site is developed.

The new facility would also include 31 units of low-income rentals for women-led families. They would be located above the fire hall and run by the YWCA.

"There are other cities like New York that have combined fire halls with high rise towers," Wood said.

"If you think about value, property — as you know, living in Greater Vancouver — is expensive, so you maximize the value of the property, try to get the best value for everybody involved."

Construction of the proposed six-storey facility is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2015, pending rezoning. It will be significantly larger than other buildings in the area.

A temporary fire hall has been built at the nearby Fraserview Golf Course for use during construction.

The public is invited to view plans at an open house at Vancouver Fire Hall No. 5, East 54th Avenue (at Kerr Street) on April 1, 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. PT.