DUNEDIN — City commissioners got a look at preliminary designs for a new city fire station last week, but one commissioner suggested the architects should go back to the drawing board.
Commissioner Julie Ward Bujalski said she likes many of the proposed architectural elements, but she fears the station's "art deco 1950s retro" look won't match the tropical design adopted for other amenities that, like the fire station, are part of the Highlander Park master plan.
She asked officials with Wannemacher Jensen Architects to bring back alternative designs that incorporate elements of the six or so building looks laid out in the city's architectural guidelines.
"We're encouraging anybody that develops to use one of those styles, so it just seems to me that if we're going to ask outside people to do it, we should be doing it ourselves," Bujalski said. "I don't know what that means. I'm not saying that means redesign the whole thing. It might mean change a few things so it fits more."
Station No. 61 — the oldest of the city's three fire facilities — has been targeted for replacement since at least 2000, when the first of two city assessments determined the 4,679-square-foot building was obsolete.
According to reports, the 40-year-old station is too small, sits in a flood zone, lacks sprinkler and lightning protection systems, and likely wouldn't withstand a hurricane.
The building, located inside Highlander Park on Ed Eckert Drive off Michigan Boulevard, also sits at a blind intersection with limited visibility east and west. Cars parked for special park events often block the way in or out.
The Wannemacher Jensen group's focus is designing an environmentally friendly, 7,500-square-foot station that blends in well with its surroundings.
Preliminary plans presented to commissioners propose using trees to buffer the station from the surrounding neighborhood, mimicking the sloping roofs of nearby buildings and homes, and using windows to emphasize natural light. Steel and brick walls would buttress the building against strong winds and also eliminate the need for paint or constant cleaning.
The station, to be built closer to the park's Michigan Boulevard entrance, will have a life expectancy of 75 years.
"As sustainability becomes more and more important, it's almost becoming its own style," architect Sergio DeSanto told Bujalski.
The design also includes a glass-walled showroom for a memorial to firefighters who died in the 2001 World Trade Center attack and for displaying an antique fire truck that now takes up much-needed room in Fire Station 62.
The department would also use the showroom, "visible 24/7," to display signs about events and seasonal fire safety tips, fire Chief Bud Meyer said. The station's anticipated 2013 opening would coincide with the department's 100th anniversary — an event Meyer wants to commemorate with a plaque.
"It just made a lot of sense that this would be a great piece of history to preserve and it would give us a great way to fit in with the park," he said.
And the timing of the new station is convenient if Pinellas County decides to add two ambulances to Dunedin.
"Our stations are maxed out. There's no way we can bring additional services into the department," Meyer said. "Very shortly down the road we could be providing a new service that we're not doing today and this station is going to allow us to do that."
The design phase is about 50 percent complete. The city expects to spend roughly three more months on planning, then to return to the commission for approval to sign contracts and begin construction work this fall.
The city last summer budgeted $1.5 million for construction, which is expected to wrap up next summer. Pinellas County will contribute 13 percent of costs.
Keyonna Summers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4153. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.