The new-look fire station 3 is on the brink of completion.
Despite an original completion date of Jan. 8, 2019, the remodeling of Palo Alto Fire Station 3 has dragged on well into 2020. The station, located at 799 Embarcadero Road, is now expected to be finished and operational by the end of March, according to project manager Matt Raschke.
Raschke explained that the delay was in part caused by issues within the General Contractor, those responsible for coordinating the project while following the City’s construction contract.
“The General Contractor on Fire Station 3 experienced a high volume of staff turnover during the first six months of work,” Raschke said. “They had two project managers and four superintendents assigned to the job leave the company. I believe that staff turnover significantly affected their ability to stay on schedule and coordinate the work.”
Raschke also added that there were problems with HVAC Service Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc., one of the major subcontractors involved with the project.
“(HVAC) had performance issues and then ultimately filed for bankruptcy in May 2019,” Raschke said. “This subcontractor was responsible for the heating, air conditioning, and the exterior cladding of the building.”
As a part of the city’s construction contract, there is a provision for Liquidated Damages, justifying costs caused by delays from the General Contractor. In the contract, the city designated the fine to be $1,500, the amount the General Contractor must pay the city for each day of delay.
The contract states that “if Contractor fails to achieve Substantial Completion of the entire Work within the Contract Time, including any approved extensions thereto, City may assess liquidated damages on a daily basis for each day of Unexcused Delay in achieving Substantial Completion, based on the amount of One Thousand Five Hundred dollars ($1,500) per day.”
According to Chenglong Tsai, the project architect for Station 3, the new station improves upon its predecessor in a variety of ways, allowing it to both comply with the current firehouse standards and better suit the needs of the community.
One standard the new station meets is the Essential Services Building Seismic Safety Act.
“(The act) requires that all the fire stations we design today remain operational after a major earthquake,” Tsai said. “This is one of the main reasons that the new fire station is necessary.”
The new station also enhances the apparatus bay, the part of the station that houses the firefighting vehicles, according to Tsai. This design incorporates a driveway on Newell Road, allowing vehicles to enter the building from Newell and exit out to Embarcadero.
“The old station only had doors opening to Embarcadero Road. It required fire apparatus to back into the station,” Tsai said. “It took more time for the fire personnel to back into the Apparatus Bay and also required traffic to stop at Embarcadero Road. More importantly, this feature creates a much safer environment for both pedestrians and traffic.”
Palo Alto residents may have noticed the similarities between the new station and other surrounding civic buildings, such as the Palo Alto Main Library on Newell Road.
“As part of architectural design, we always strive to make our new building fit in with its context, may it be physical or conceptual,” Tsai said. “As a way of drawing connections to what’s already in the area, we did look closely at the library. We have no intention to copy what was done at the library, however we did use the materials that ‘already existed in the area,’ such as terracotta and metal panel and reinterpreted them to make them unique to this fire station.”
Junior Matthew Ward, who lives a block away from Station 3, said he is content with the way the project appears to be turning out.
“I think it will be a lot more beneficial to have (Fire Station 3) done given the fire history we have in California,” Ward said. “I also believe that the absence of construction will reduce a lot of the traffic there is currently on Embarcadero. I’m looking forward to the many benefits the new station will bring to the community in the foreseeable future.”