St. Louis Park fire stations to get a makeover

Susan Kenzie

Fire stations in St. Louis Park are anticipating a much needed makeover. Due mainly to space limitations, the two current fire stations are going to be rebuilt. The fire station located on Wooddale Avenue is expected to be torn down and rebuilt in order to expand its’ size.

The second fire station located at 2262 Louisiana Avenue will likely be torn down and moved to another location. A variety of factors were considered when deciding whether to move locations. “The [Louisiana] station is located on a tiny little lot. It has bad topography and it is dangerous for trucks coming in and out,” said Brian Hoffman, Director of Inspections for St. Louis Park

The St. Louis Park Council met last year to talk about how many fire stations were needed in the city of St. Louis Park. The council decided to maintain two fire stations in the city.”Currently, we are evaluating where to put the two new stations,” said Hoffman.

One of the locations under consideration is Eliot School, located on Cedar Lake Road. The site hasn’t been used as an elementary school since the 70’s. The site has been vacant for years, while occasionally leasing the space to other groups. Currently it is leased out to the French Immersion School, housing a couple hundred students.

The space at Eliot School is much larger than that needed for the fire station, so city council is determining what could occupy the other half of the space. Some proposals include a community center, residential housing, or a training area for the fire fighters.

City council recently met with the neighborhood on April 7 at the school to explain the fire station dilemma and possible solutions including converting Eliot School to a new fire station. The council also held their annual meeting in the Elmwood neighborhood on April 9, where they discussed future plans with residents said Hoffman.

The current fire stations were built around fifty years ago, and are not capable of supporting the weight and size of modern fire trucks and equipment. The city has added additional support below the floors housing the trucks as a temporary solution but a permanent solution is essential. “The structural fatigue on the building served as a wakeup call,” said Hoffman. “We realized we had reached a point where something had to be changed.”

In addition to providing more space and support for fire trucks, new fire stations would be built to accommodate the growing number of female fire fighters. Presently, St. Louis Park fire stations do not offer separate sleeping, restrooms, and shower facilities to its’ female employees.

“The living space for fire fighters and staff living on sight is just way too small. We need to make sure we are providing adequate space and materials to meet their needs,” said Hoffman

The site selection process is planned to continue over the next several months. “We should have some idea of the site by the end of summer,” said Hoffman. “The next step is to find an architect firm to work on a design. There could be some construction next year for fire station #1 [the Louisiana location]”

Another component to consider is the utilities building located inside of the fire station located on Louisiana Avenue. “We would have to start construction for a new utilities building as well which may start next year. All together it may be three years before the project is completed,” said Hoffman.

Renovating St. Louis Park’s fire stations will not be inexpensive by any means. The total of the renovations is estimated to be between $15-20 million. “The fire department has money saved and the city has some cash on hand. A large amount of the cost will be bonded by the city of St. Louis Park,” said Hoffman.

susan kenzie, staff writer