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Boise to replace downtown fire station, add affordable housing

The City of Boise is gearing up to replace its oldest fire station, plus add something new to the area.

On Tuesday, Boise Fire Chief Mark Niemeyer and Boise Capital Projects Manager Shawn Wilson gave a presentation to city council about plans to replace Fire Station 5 on 16th Street in the next few years. The 1950s station is located across from Rhodes Skatepark and serves downtown Boise, logging more calls than any other firehouse in Idaho.

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A modern building needed

The project is only in the most preliminary stages of conceptual design. After a months-long site analysis, the city plans to tear down the aging station and replace it with a new building and build an affordable housing development on the part of the .85 acre parcel currently used as a parking lot.

Wilson said his team examined the current station’s condition, facility, and the level of service it provided and determined the fire station should stay in its current location but needed a major overhaul. The expansion would allow the station to have a special room with ventilation to store the equipment firefighters wear on the scene of fires to protect them from carcinogens and a separate room for tools to do building and vehicle repairs.

The city said the building itself has also run beyond its useful life.

“A lot of the architectural systems are coming due on it,” Wilson said. “It was built to current code at the time, so 1950s code, which is substantially different from new seismic code today so it’s quite a bit behind. In the 1950s, there were also no ADA standards and access to the building has… challenges.”

Affordable housing and a fire station?

Part of Wilson and Boise Fire Department’s evaluation of the site included what else could fit there. After some conceptual drawings, they determined an affordable housing project developed through the city’s housing land trust could fit on the site. It would be developed by a private developer, but the city would continue to own the land and require specific rents and units reserved for low-income Boiseans, like the other properties the city is developing in this manner.

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It is unknown yet how many units could be built, or any specifics on rents. City officials hope to put out a request for proposals to find a private developer so it lines up with the fire station’s construction timeline. The city estimates after all of the design phases and 12 to 18 months of construction it will be completed sometime during 2024.

There is no estimated price tag for the project yet.

Niemeyer said the firefighters who work in Station 5 have a lot of sentimental attachment to the building, but they understand the need for an upgrade. To honor the history of the building, the new design will feature a display outside the building about Boise Fire Department history and they have plans to save some of the original brick and an original hardwood floor to be integrated into the new station.

Praise from council

City Council Member Holli Woodings said she had talked about a similar concept for a fire station in downtown Boise with multiple uses on the property years ago and she is is happy to see a concept like it moving forward.

“It’s great to see something come to life that encompasses so much of what the city needs,” Woodings said.

City Council Member TJ Thomson asked if the new station will accommodate room for larger crews so the station can accommodate four firefighters on each truck, especially at the city’s busiest station.

Niemeyer said he couldn’t answer the question, but it’s been under discussion for two months.

“As far as the staffing, that is a much broader conversation we plan to have in the fire department on long term strategic planning and growth,” he said.

Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev senior reporter
Margaret Carmel is a BoiseDev reporter focused on the City of Boise, housing, homelessness and growth. Contact her at [email protected] or by phone at (757)705-8066.

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