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Infrastructure, Projects

$48M public safety building to rise in Esquimalt

Grant Cameron
$48M public safety building to rise in Esquimalt
COURTESY OF TOWNSHIP OF ESQUIMALT — Crews have begun preparing a three-storey building that will provide a new state-of-the-art, seismically engineered building for Esquimalt Fire Rescue Services, the Emergency Operations Centre and Capital Regional District offices. A contract for the work was awarded this past spring to Knappett Projects Inc. and work began in late May.

A lone orange excavator is parked on an expanse of grey-brown dirt a short distance from a large trailer that is stationed at the north edge of a construction site at 500 Park Place in Esquimalt, B.C.

A short distance to the south, at the other end of the property, operators of two large shovels are working in tandem, the teeth on their buckets clawing at the ground and pulling out concrete and rocks.

To the west, stands a four-storey building and across the street to the east is a large condo complex.

Amidst these relatively tight quarters, crews have begun preparing the area for a three-storey building that will provide a new state-of-the-art, seismically engineered building for Esquimalt Fire Rescue Services (EFRS), the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), and Capital Regional District (CRD) offices.

A contract for the work was awarded this past spring to Knappett Projects Inc. and work began in late May.

The plan is to complete the $48-million project by fall 2026.

 

The plan is to complete the $48-million project by fall 2026. The new structure will occupy the southern portion of the property. Architectural renderings show a modern-looking structure with large entrance off Park Place.
COURTESY OF TOWNSHIP OF ESQUIMALT — The plan is to complete the $48-million project by fall 2026. The new structure will occupy the southern portion of the property. Architectural renderings show a modern-looking structure with large entrance off Park Place.

 

Planning for the public safety building began more than four years ago when a request for proposals was issued for a feasibility study. Architects were then brought on board to do the design work, site studies were completed and finally a construction manager and builder were selected.

Esquimalt Mayor Barbara Desjardins says the municipality is thrilled to see the long-awaited project finally being built.

“The community deserves a modern public safety building and I know it has taken a lot of hard work to get us to this important step.”

In 2021, the property was rezoned to permit the new use.

The new structure is being built on the property where the township’s previous public safety building once stood. The structure housed the fire department, EOC and Victoria Police Esquimalt division and was demolished in 2021.

The fire department was moved to the Archie Browning Sports Centre where a temporary hall was built.  The interim EOC is now in the township council chambers.

The EOC, fire department and CRD offices will be moved back to the new site once the building is completed.

The new structure will occupy the southern portion of the property. Architectural renderings show a modern-looking structure with large entrance off Park Place. Pedestrian-friendly improvements will be made outside the building to match the Town Square Development.

The structure will have a dedicated decontamination area, high-angle training tower and classroom space, along with a four-bay fire apparatus apron that will be in the same location as the old firehall facing Carlisle Street with vehicles following traditional paths through the township.

On the ground floor, the main entrance will be angled to extend the existing public thoroughfare into the building.

At the upper floors, the massing is angled away from the neighbouring residential building to the west and likewise, held back from the south edge to yield a training area adjacent to the hose tower.  The tower will support high-angle rescue and tower crane rescue training. 

The second and third floors will house the EOC, fire department administrative offices, dorms, CRD office space and training areas.

The façade will be mainly comprised of scalloped metallic panels with horizontal banding and a vertical grid pattern with glazed punctuations to add light and character to the building. 

EFRS fire chief Matt Furlot says the old fire station had reached the end of its usable life and an upgrade was necessary to permit essential training amenities such as the training tower and a classroom.

The price tag of the structure came in higher than the original estimate, so the project had to be pared back.

In February 2021, consultants pegged the project at $42 million. It was updated to $48 million in June 2022, but after tenders were issued in December 2022, the construction manager presented the township with an unexpected budget of $62.2 million.

In summer 2023, the township adjusted the original scope of the project because of the rising costs. The refreshed design went to tender this past March.

Staying within the original budget was a priority, so council “opted for an alternative design concept that maintained fiscal responsibility while providing residents with a modern public safety facility,” according to a statement from the township.

Staff sought a second opinion to ensure confidence in the numbers presented by the construction manager and make sure they were accurate.

In recent years, the Vancouver Island construction market has seen annual escalation rates over 10 per cent per year in contrast to the typical annual rates of two to five per cent.

The new budget includes numerous costs associated with the work besides the final building cost, including demolition and abatement of the old public safety building, renovation of the interim police facilities as well as building the temporary fire hall.

Roughly one-third of the costs of the project addresses needs other than construction.

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