PORT KELLS — The historic Port Kells Fire Hall that was decommissioned last year is set to get a facelift from firefighters.
The Surrey Firefighters Union hopes to restore and expand the heritage hall, which has been called “the heart of Port Kells” by locals.
The aim is to have the building, at 18922 88th Ave., used as a heritage museum, union office and event hall.
Union executive Saverio Lattanzio said it was “remarkable” the way “the stars and moons aligned” to allow for the project. “We were in the process of looking for another building,” explained Lattanzio.
“We’ve kind of outgrown another one, an assembly hall in Newton that we were in the process of selling. Coincidentally that (Port Kells) hall was being shut down, so we started to inquire if it was possible to purchase it from the city.”
The union and the city are still in negotiations.
In the meantime, the union is planning for a renovation and a two-storey addition at the rear of the building.
The expansion would see the 3,500-square-foot building increase in size to 6,000 square feet.
Surrey City Council gave first and second reading to a Heritage Revitalization Agreement (HRA) for the project in late May, but the application must still go to public hearing.
The proposed HRA contains a detailed conservation plan that outlines the changes that can be made to garage doors, cladding, windows, fascia and trim, soffits and the hose tower.
If approved, the HRA would preserve the original 1923 hall, allow for the rear addition, reinstate the hall’s original three-door configuration with two new doors to match the original, and remove the vinyl siding from the fire hall to be replaced with new wood siding.
In addition to the restoration work, the union plans to house four historical fire trucks there, which have been restored by union members.
“It’s suitable for fire trucks, that’s what the building was designed for,” said Lattanzio.
“Beyond that, we do community events and social events. We have first aid that’s taught with our charitable society, we are involved in the community with lots of charitable and outreach programs, and this can help us with that as well.”
Lattanzio thinks the community “will be really impressed” with the project.
“They’re excited to see some growth and revitalization,” he said, noting another heritage project in the works nearby. The historic Bulman’s Garage, which provided auto services to the community for 50 years, will be revitalized as part of a gas station’s redevelopment.
The garage has an approved Heritage Revitalization Agreement, and a building permit was issued in October, 2016.
“With the cleanup of the gas station corner, it’s going to change that whole central region of Port Kells,” said Lattanzio.
“Our hall is going to be a big enhancement to the area as well, so I think the community is excited to see some investment in the area. These are two big projects.
“It’s kind of neat to see some progress being made,” he said.
Lattanzio hopes construction at the firehall will begin in June.
“It’ll probably be a year and a half for everything, but we’re sure within a year we’ll be in the building.”
City documents state the historic building was erected in 1923 by the Surrey Farmers Institute for use as an agricultural hall, and was then leased to the Port Kells Congregation of the United Church of Canada from 1935 to 1947, when it was then leased to the District of Surrey for use as a fire hall.
Constructed in 1967, a single-storey flat roof addition with two vehicle bays on the east side was designed by architect and Surrey Planning Manager Louke B. Kleyne.
The hall had an “integral role in the growth of Port Kells from an outlying village to a suburban community of Surrey,” notes a report to city council, which adds, “Port Kells Fire Hall No. 7 is also valued for its architectural significant as a vernacular agricultural hall design, as there are very few of these buildings remaining.”
Lattanzio acknowledged the “history of the building is quite remarkable.”
And, he noted, it’s “one of the few firehalls with an original brass fire pole.”
So far, the only issue to arise out of the union’s plans have to do with parking. Some residents have expressed concern over “serious parking deficiencies” on site, according to a city report, particularly when the firefighters have union meetings.
Firefighters have agreed to secure parking by renting out the neighbouring community hall, staff noted in the report, which also stated the community centre is often booked more than a year in advance so double booking could be an issue.
Parking may also be sought from Port Kells Elementary and library, and the union has agreed to sign a Good Neighbour Agreement with the city to demonstrate their commitment to minimize parking conflicts.
The Port Kells Fire Hall been on the Surrey Heritage Register since 2000.