University Town Center getting new fire station

Sarasota County Fire Department building around the corner from coming mall

jbartolone@bradenton.comJanuary 31, 2014 

A rendering of the Sarasota County Fire Station No. 17 to be built around the corner from the Mall at University Town Center and Nathan Benderson Park. PROVIDED IMAGE

UNIVERSITY PARK -- As University Town Center grows, so will the presence of local first-responders.

The Sarasota County Fire Department plans to build a new $2.3 million fire station around the corner from the new Mall at University Town Center, set to open this fall, and Nathan Benderson Park, site of the 2017 World Rowing Championship.

Station No. 17 will replace a smaller facility the fire department now uses for EMS operations as part of an agreement with Benderson Development Co., the UTC developer, said Assistant Fire Chief Bill Hoag.

The 13,000-square-foot station, which will be on DeSoto Road between Honore Avenue and North Cattlemen Road, would give SCFD increased presence

at the site, which eventually will include hotels, 1,750 multifamily residential units and a movie theater, in addition to the new luxury mall and rowing facility.

"We're not necessarily in the middle of it, we're on the periphery, so I think this gives us a bit of an in and out," Hoag said. "We're not in the middle of it, but we're close enough to help everybody out."

When completed, Station No. 17 will house one fire truck, one ambulance and four personnel. It will also include office space for the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office and storage for its ATVs and small boats, Hoag said.

It is one of four county fire stations being replaced, joining locations on Bee Ridge Road, South Tamiami Trail and Twin Lakes Park.

The new fire stations will be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified and employ other energy-saving strategies. They will be paid for with a combination of ad valorem and non-ad valorem taxes and impact fees.

The projects, on the books since 2006, were put on hold by the declining economy, Hoag said. With more favorable interest rates and construction costs now, and in recognition of growth in the area, the timing and location are right.

"We're meeting the needs of the public with the expansion," Hoag said. "I think it's a great location and allows us to service areas east of the interstate."

Lakewood Ranch-based Willis A. Smith Construction will be construction manager on all four new fire stations. Sweet Sparkman Architects of Sarasota will handle the design.

"We are excited about working with Sarasota County on these new facilities and helping to upgrade critical services they provide," said David Sessions, president of Willis Construction.

The project will require a zoning change. A Feb. 19 meeting is scheduled to gather public input.

Work on the new station should begin in September, with a tentative completion date of September 2015, Hoag said.

The Mall at University Town Center is slated to open Oct. 16.

Jason Bartolone, East Manatee Editor, can be reached at 941-745-7011. Follow him on Twitter @JasonBartolone.

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