Five years after the Flood of 2008 swamped Cedar Rapids’ Central Fire Station at 222 Third St. NW, the new station has opened in a new, more prominent location on First Avenue SE.
The project has gone much further than just replacing the old station. The new Central Fire Station’s striking brick exterior nods to the fire department’s important place in Cedar Rapids history. At the same time, the new Central Fire Station is equipped with leading edge technology, training facilities and energy-efficient features that will serve the department, and the community, for years to come.
“This is a very significant part of our community, showing that we’re recovered from the flood and have a central fire station again,” says Nick Ruden from Ryan Companies, construction manager for the project.
The new Central Fire Station is situated on a city block at First Avenue and Seventh Street SE. The station serves two distinct functions. As a working firehouse, firefighters will respond to emergency calls in the immediate area in and around downtown Cedar Rapids 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Central Fire Station also houses a variety of specialty rescue vehicles and equipment, ready to respond to a water rescue or ice rescue or hazardous materials situation, for example, anywhere in the city. “These vehicles need to be centrally located, to be able to go anywhere in the city, hopefully within an eight-minute period,” says Greg Buelow, the fire department’s special projects coordinator and public information officer. “It’s kind of like the heart pumping blood to all parts of the body; the Central Fire Station needs to be centrally located to be able to provide resources through one of our major arteries, which are First Avenue and Interstate 380.”
Last, but not least, the Central Fire Station will be home to the fire department’s administrative offices and the Fire Marshal’s Office and a variety of training rooms, all under one roof.
“It was a pretty challenging building to design because it’s a living space, a working space and also an office building upstairs,” says Al Buck, associate and architect at Solum Lang Architects. “We couldn’t be happier with how it’s turned out. We hope it’s something Cedar Rapids is proud of.”
The public will have a chance to see the new station for themselves at an open house from 2 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 8.
Much of the buzz around the new Central Fire Station is about its decidedly historical look and feel.
“I will give all the credit to Fire Chief Mark English. He really steered the ship,” says Al Buck, associate and architect at Solum Lang Architects. “He really was the driving force on the project from the beginning. He wanted a station that paid homage to the past on the outside, but was a modern firefighting building on the inside.”
The new Central Fire Station was in some part modeled after the former Science Station building on First Street SE, now the Metro Economic Alliance building, which served as the central fire station from 1917 to 1985. “The new Central Fire Station has a lot of the same look and feel to it,” says Greg Buelow, the fire department’s special projects coordinator and public information officer.
The glass and metal garage doors, which are 14 feet wide and 16.5 feet tall, resemble real wood. Keystones and arched details are above the garage doors as well as many of the building’s windows. The building’s exterior features red brick. Buelow says a lot of thought went into picking the exact brick color, called Merlot Full-Range, from Marseilles, Illinois. The station’s interior features red oak woodwork trim, stained to a rich cherry finish reminiscent of craftsman woodworking.
Some historical touches are more subtle. Years ago, firefighters would hang the fire hose in a tower to dry. The imagery of hose towers is incorporated into the new station; look for the two tall windows that bookmark the fire station on the Seventh Street side, along First and Second Avenues.
“We won’t use them for that purpose, but we definitely wanted the historical character,” Buelow says.
In the same way, the new Central Fire Station has a fire pole, but it’s only a nod to the past, and won’t be used. The fire pole is part of the Central Fire Station’s fire gallery in the main entry. The two-story lobby features several
display cases that highlight the history of the department and feature a variety of memorabilia.
“Firefighters are heroes, they’re modern day heroes,” Buck says. “When school kids come through for a tour, we wanted to give them a sense of the firefighters being a little larger than life. The entry is oversized to give you that larger-than-life feeling.”
The public is invited to an open house and community tours of the Cedar Rapids Fire Department’s new Central Fire Station, 713 First Ave. SE, on Tuesday, Oct. 8. The fire department will have a hose uncoupling and dedication event at 2 p.m., followed by an open house and community tours until 7 p.m. Instead of cutting a ribbon, special guests will uncouple a fire hose as part of the activities.
The Belle Plaine Fire Department will display an old steam-powered fire engine that was shipped to Cedar Rapids on a railroad flatcar in 1905 to assist Cedar Rapids firefighters in fighting the infamous Quaker Oats fire.
Jim White, whose father served on the Cedar Rapids Fire Department from 1920 to 1955, will present “Tales of a Firefighter: From Horses to Trucks” from 4 to 5 p.m. and 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.