UPDATED: Replace, increase size of burned Birch building, says mayor

After a fatal fire, the society is considering whether to repair or to rebuild from scratch.

The fate of Langley City’s fire-damaged Birch building could be renovation, or replacement.

The Langley Lions Senior Citizens Housing Society is considering whether to restore the building, damaged by a fatal fire on April 12, or to tear it down and build from scratch, said society executive director Jeanette Dagenais.

“The long term plan is still in the early stages,” said Dagenais, who emphasized no decision has yet been made.

The society is now analyzing the options.

“Our buildings are aging,” she noted.

The current structure goes back to the 1970s.

“If I had my druthers, I’d like to see it torn down, and instead of three storeys, they could possibly make it six storeys,” said City Mayor Ted Schaffer.

That could double the units, and upgrade the building’s facilities, including sprinkler system and disability access, Schaffer said.

He said the City would be on board in supporting the society getting moving, and was hoping reconstruction would move faster.

“I think it’s a shame, especially when low income housing is at a premium,” said Schaffer.

The fire in April, which took the life of one tenant, was the second fatal fire in recent years at one of the Lions Society buildings, which serve mainly elderly, disabled, and low income renters.

Consultants are working with the society, and they have also been in brief discussions with the City of Langley, Dagenais said. She could not say exactly when a decision will be made.

If the Birch is replaced and rebuilt from scratch, it would be built to modern standards, which include full fire sprinklers.

The Advance reported in November that the Birch building, part of a large complex of buildings, was still largely empty eight months after the fire. Only 10 units are occupied.

The fire and the firefighting efforts caused significant water damage, and asbestos in the building was disturbed by the fire.

Read more: Langley City apartments sit empty months after fire

READ: One feared dead in Langley City seniors apartment fire

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