Towson's new fire station, set for its official dedication Monday morning, looks better than expected, and even better at night, said Michael Ertel, president of the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations. But he still thinks the 19,700-square-foot building could have boasted more style to reflect Towson's ambitious redevelopment efforts.
Ertel, who lives in West Towson, was not impressed when he first saw the design for the two-story brick fire station last year. He found it bland, and said so at a meeting of Baltimore County's Design Review Panel in May. "It's a nondescript building," Ertel said. "It could easily be a Mr. Tire store or a Pep Boys."
Now, with the station in operation since mid-December, Ertel has softened his opinion a bit. For one thing, Station No. 1's large glass doors allow the public a view of the engines and trucks, he said, an effect that's even more noticeable at night when the station's five drive-through bays are illuminated.
Still, Ertel thinks the county missed an opportunity to add some flair to a public building that will hold a prominent place in the county seat — near Bosley Avenue and Towsontown Boulevard — for 50 years or longer. Just a few architectural touches, he said, and the county could have made more of a statement about its vision for Towson, parts of which are being redeveloped into residences, offices, shops and restaurants.
"We weren't saying we didn't want a new fire station," Ertel said. "We said, 'Put a little more effort into it.'"
Others have expressed satisfaction with the $7.6 million station's look. Mitchell Kellman, a member of the Design Review Panel, called it "elegantly designed" and "low-key." Baltimore County Councilman David Marks, a Republican who represents Towson, said Sunday he believes the new station, which is located on what had been the site of a county fueling station, "fits architecturally into the area."
"It's not as imposing on the community as some thought it would be," Marks said.
Firefighters have been working out of the new station since Dec. 10, said Bob Tracey, a 30-year veteran of the county Fire Department who was on duty Sunday. The station has sleeping quarters for up to 17 officers and firefighters, a spacious kitchen, a meeting room and a fitness center due to be outfitted with new equipment in July.
Towson's Station No. 1 goes back to the establishment of the Baltimore County Fire Department in the 19th Century. The first station, which was at the intersection of Joppa, Dulaney Valley and York Roads, operated from 1879 until 1955. The second station, constructed at York Road and Bosley Avenue, lasted 60 years.
It is the sale of the second station that made the new one possible.
Because of the commercial value of its location, the old station and an adjoining public works property were marked for sale and redevelopment a few years ago by the administration of Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz. The site will be redeveloped into a Royal Farms store and gas station, along with a retail strip and a site for a restaurant or bank. The proposal, which needs county council approval, is valued at an estimated $8.5 million, enough to cover the costs of the new fire station.
According to county officials, the design and construction of the building met strict environmental standards for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, including vegetation trays on the station roof to reduce energy consumption and cooling costs.