Council gets a look at plans for WFD’s Shipyard station

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A rendering of the Wilmington Fire Department's new Shipyard Station by design group Becker Morgan.
A rendering of the Wilmington Fire Department’s new Shipyard Station by design group Becker Morgan.

Plans for the last of three new fire stations for the Wilmington Fire Department have been presented before city council.

The new station , which will be located at 680 Shipyard Blvd. between the CVS and Family Dollar on the south side of the thoroughfare, will become the new Station No. 5. It is replacing the current Station No. 5, located about a mile away at 1502 Wellington Ave and Station No. 6, located less than two miles away at 3939 Carolina Beach Road. The station’s service area covers Shipyard Boulevard from River Road to Independence Boulevard and the northern parts of Carolina Beach Boulevard and River Road. The area also includes the Port of Wilmington, New Hanover Regional Medical Center and Legion Stadium.

The basis of the design, according to WFD Chief Buddy Martinette and Mark Loudermilk of design group Becker Morgan, is the recently opened Station No. 3 at 114 Cinema Drive.

“When we came to you with the Cinema Fire Station design, it was our intention to use that design for the Shipyard property,” Martinette said. “We think we’ve essentially done that, although our first shot at this thing was significantly over budget because we needed to add a second floor to the building. So with some design help from Becker Morgan, we think we’ve come to a pretty good facility and one that has potential to meet our budget requirements.”

The city awarded a design contract worth $384,716 to Becker Morgan in November. The proposed construction budget for the state-of-the-art facility, which like Cinema Drive will be built to LEED standards, is $3.2 million.

According to Loudermilk, the design needed adjustment because the Shipyard site is smaller than the one on Cinema Drive. The elimination of a second story, with the added cost of an elevator and stairs, would’ve put the project over budget.

“We’ve tweaked it. We’ve cut about a third of the square footage out,” Loudermilk said. “[The floorplan] is very similar to No. 3, so we have tried to reuse as much as we could.”

The station, which was scaled down from the original 13,000 square feet mentioned in the contract to about 11,400 square feet, will have sleeping quarters, a training room, large kitchen and dining room that will have a view of a landscaped courtyard. It will also only have three bays instead of four like Cinema Drive, but they will be longer to accommodate for the department’s tiller truck, also known as a hook and ladder truck.

“Right now this can only be parked at headquarters [downtown],” said Loudermilk. “The bays at this station will be longer so they can park that vehicle there, or a second one if that’s ever acquired, and they can also easily stack two vehicles.”

Loudermilk said they took a lot of design input from the chiefs and department’s firefighters. One person from the department suggested putting the watch tower in the middle of the facility instead of the end, and someone else suggested using two colors of brick instead of just red. The light colored brick will be the perfect place to put a large WFD logo, said Loudermilk.

In addition to adjusting the station’s size, the design team also had issues dealing with North Carolina Department of Transportation regulations. Only one driveway on the property is allowed, so Loudermilk said apparatus will use the driveway behind the adjacent Family Dollar to get back into the station instead of having to back into the driveway from Shipyard Boulevard.

The NCDOT also initially did not want to allow a cut in the median on Shipyard, which would allow for left-turn access to get to Carolina Beach Road, but after the fire department demonstrated what it would be like without it, the NCDOT conceded.

“Logic kind of overcame the argument,” said Loudermilk, noting that turning right on Shipyard and making a U-turn at the next break would add 30 seconds to the WFD’s response time.

The station will share an easement, sidewalk and retention pond with the adjacent Family Dollar. Visitors to the station will also be able to use the store’s parking lot.

Before the Cinema Drive Station was built, the Empie Park Fire Station (No. 2) at 3403 Park Ave. was the department’s newest facility. According to Martinette, the Shipyard station will complete the WFD’s plan to update its facilities and consolidate its service areas.

Construction is expected to start this fall.