Over the past several years, we continue to see an increase in shared or co-located public safety facilities. Besides designing facilities for fire and law enforcement agencies, other sites include town or municipal offices, dispatch centers, and justice departments. Locating fire and law enforcement departments offers numerous financial benefits but also there is a trend for fire and police to train and work together.
However, costs have also driven fire departments to consider alternatives for satellite fire stations. With the spread of urban and suburban populations, the demand for new and additional satellite stations is increasing as land is difficult to find and afford. Consequently, departments have some unique ways to increase their presence in the community and more affordable ways.
Some fire departments looked within their local government to find cost-saving opportunities for satellite stations.
Washington Township, OH, is located inside a water tower owned by the City of Dublin and leased to Washington Township. According to the department, Station 95 is only one of four fire stations co-located in water towers.
The Violet Township Fire Department, Pickerington, Ohio, Station 593 was built 15 years ago behind retail stores in a strip mall. According to Fire Chief Mike Little, when the station was built, it was in one of the busiest quarters of the city. Little said the fire chief at the time made a deal with the retail complex to include a garage and medical unit on the first floor of the new apartment building. The station is out of public view, so people are surprised when the department responds from the complex. Station 593 has served the department well, but the department is now talking about relocating the station to a new site and co-locating with a new pre-K school the school district is building.
The Violet Township Fire Department is also sharing its newest facility, Station 591, with the Chamber of Commerce. Station 591 was built on the site of the old 591 station. VTFD negotiated a price for the old Chamber of Commerce building and in return, agreed to lease three office spaces in the new fire station. The department has three five-year agreements that stipulate the rent and a clause the Chamber must give a 90-day notice if they leave. The department shares a fitness room and a conference room with the Chamber.
Thinking about other co-located stations, in response to a LinkedIn posting, we received numerous sightings of fire stations co-located in commercial locations.
After doing research for Atlanta Fire Rescue, Matt Hinds-Aldrich, Ph.D., came across a number of co-located fire stations, including a fire station located on the first floor of a CubeSmart, a six-story self-storage project.
Another LinkedIn message was Lincolnwood, IL, Fire Department’s recently opened satellite station in an assisted living facility. Clark County, NV, Fire Department has a fire station in hotel/casino off the Las Vegas strip. The District of Columbia Fire EMS has satellite stations located within some DC hotels. In Colorado, Breckenridge’s Red-White-Blue Fire Protection District has a station located in a hotel/condo/ski base building.
According to Robert Manns, principal, Manns Woodward Studios, Inc., there are several benefits of working with a developer on co-locating a fire station with a commercial or residential complex.
“In some instances, it’s also a way of getting a developer to pay for the capital costs,” said Mann. “It’s a win-win-win in some circumstances. City gets fire station. Developer gets land and sometimes tax waivers/incentives. City gets residents. Residents pay taxes.” Mann cautioned, “The tricky part is maintaining the quality of design and construction. With the right contract delivery method and project management team it can be a great solution.”
The City of Madison, WI, Fire Department’s Station #1 is part of a public/private partnership. The Ovation 309 is a 14-story, multi-use property featuring 248 residential units along with retail and commercial space and the City’s largest and busiest firehouse. Access between the Fire Station and adjacent administrative offices are housed within the Ovation 309 is provided at the basement, first floor, and mezzanine levels.
Where there’s a need to improve service and response time to the community, the fire service is working to find financially responsible ways.