The groundwork leading ultimately to a proposed design for a new fire station gets underway this week.
Sean Schmigle, project manager with the design firm Kaestle Boos Associates, told the Fire Station Building Committee on Monday that a meeting is planned for Wednesday with the seven owners of property contiguous to the site at 139 The Great Road. They were invited by mail.
Also, a discussion with firefighters about the department’s needs was scheduled for Tuesday. Schmigle said he hopes to identify 15-20 years of operational needs, “knowing the building will last much longer.”
A give-and-take meeting for the owners of 38 properties within 300 feet of the location is planned for Tuesday, May 23. The June calendar features a presentation at the regular meeting of the Historic District Commission on the seventh and a general community meeting on June 13, also with a formal presentation.
Building Committee meetings are expected to accelerate to bimonthly after the June 20 session. “We anticipate these community meetings to continue” as the design unfolds,” said Brian DeFillipis of PMA Associates, the owner’s project manager for the town.
“Part of our job will be to advocate,” Select Board member Emily Mitchell observed. At-large member Jeffrey Dearing agreed: “We are going to all be tasked with selling this project. It’s important to get the message out.”
Also at Monday’s meeting, the committee elected two of its at-large representatives chair and vice-chair, Jeff Cohen and Suzanne Koller, respectively. DeFillipis noted before the vote that “these committees are usually led by citizens.”
“We’re excited to get into the project,” said Schmigle. “We’re trying to understand the site as much as possible.” He acknowledged that the L-shaped lot, about an acre-and-a-half, “has some constraints, and we are going to have to work within those.”
Over the next few months, he said, the designers will identify pros and cons and come up with multiple iterations within the footprint,” the dimensions of which will be ascertained. The turning radius for larger equipment and safe approaches on and off the street are among the priorities, he said.
Jamie Emerson, at-large member, recommended prioritizing a traffic study “and put people at ease about that.”
Todd Costa, principal with Kaestle Boos, said that in late June or early July the firm will begin designs that “can shift and move around along with turning radiuses, to determine what’s going to work on that site.”
Schmigle said the next four to six weeks will be focused on data gathering and “conceptual ideas,” followed by three months of schematic design, three to four months of design development, and three months of finalizing construction documents.
Acting Town Manager Colleen Doyle said it is hoped that there will be an article on the 2024 Annual Town Meeting warrant for construction.
The site is within the Bedford Center Historic District, which means the Historic District Commission (HDC) has jurisdiction over the exterior of all structures. The commission will not certify a permit for demolition of the house currently on the site until it approves the design of the fire station that will replace it.
In answer to a question from Koller, Costa said there will be changes in the preliminary design and the committee should keep the HDC informed, “checking boxes with them, making sure of the details in advance.” He said the commission needs to be comfortable with elements such as materials, shape, and form.
Koller, a realtor with an office in the Historic District, said the commission won’t approve demolition until “they are 90 percent sure of what the new building would look like.” Schmigle agreed and acknowledged that “the issue is going to be the context,” how the proposed building fits on the streetscape.
Working with the HDC, Costa said, “We are open minded. We are going to look at it from all aspects.” He noted that the firm has experience designing public safety buildings in historic areas.