Fire station coming to the West End?
By Christy Goodman,
A fire station in the West End of Alexandria is a few steps closer to becoming a reality.
Alexandria’s Beauregard Corridor Stakeholders Group, a collection of residents who are working with developers to come up with recommendations for city planners who are preparing the Beauregard Corridor Small Area Plan, has listed a new station as the top priority.
A group of developers is seeking nearly 2.4 million additional square feet within the plan. To get that additional space, developers are willing to give up land at Sanger Avenue and Beauregard Street for the station and contribute $10 million toward the building’s construction.
“It was very obvious, very quickly, that one of the big things missing in that part of the city is the fire station. There is not a fire station west of [Interstate] 395 in Alexandria,” said Donna Fossum, who heads the working group. “That was a shocker for some people. Those that live there are keenly aware of it.”
Of the city’s nine firehouses, only two are west of Quaker Lane, where 53 percent of the city’s population lives. Fairfax and Arlington County fire and emergency crews often respond first to Alexandria incidents, Alexandria Fire Chief Adam Thiel said.
“We are receiving mutual aid more often than we are giving it,” the chief told the group July 11.
The addition of 6,400 federal workers coming to the Mark Center as part of Fort Belvoir’s base realignment and closure process that begins at the end of next month exacerbates the Alexandria Fire Department’s already slow response times in the area, officials say.
The chief has said in the past that response times, which should be 5.5 minutes, could be longer than 15 minutes once the Mark Center building is opened.
The city has requested money from the Defense Department to help with the situation but has not been successful, he said.
A new $13.2 million fire station on Eisenhower Avenue, which will begin construction this spring, will help relieve the stress on the West End stations but will still not be sufficient, city officials said.
The development companies JBG, Southern Towers, WRIT, Home Properties, Duke Realty and Hekemian own more than 222 acres of property in the West End. JBG owns the largest parcel, with about 130 acres.
All of the property owners envision redeveloping their land, which holds 5.6 million square feet, into 12.5 million square feet of new retail, office and residential space, said Cathy Puskar, a lawyer representing JBG and Home Properties.
The northwest corner of Sanger Avenue and Beauregard is where Thiel wants the firehouse, and that space would allow for immediate development without destroying existing buildings, Puskar said.
“It may be 15 to 20 years before that area gets developed,” Puskar said. The city “could build this fire station whenever the money became available,” she said.
Preliminary planning for the fire station is being conducted with the developers and the city in the hopes that the plan and firehouse would run parallel through the system for faster delivery, a city official said.
In addition to the fire station, the citizens group listed a traffic ellipse, space for transit, parks and affordable housing as among the amenities it would like to see as part of the redevelopment.
The developers are evaluating the costs to determine how much they will contribute, Puskar said.
Pete Benavage, who lives on Fairbanks Avenue, said he and his neighbors were “furious” when they learned their community was so poorly covered.
“If there is an emergency, it is hard enough for an emergency vehicle to get through, Benavage said. “If you have to go by private car to [Inova Alexandria Hospital], that could be virtually impossible at certain times of the day.”
Benavage said he favored the developers’ contribution and said the lack of emergency coverage is “negligent on the part of the city. It really is.”