Old West Bank fire station to get an upgrade

The station will up efficiency and upgrade facilities to better serve a changing department.

Minneapolis City Council approved a bid to improve Fire Station 7 at their Friday meeting. Fire Station 7, located in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, was built in 1962 and hasn't been improved in 20 years.

Chelsea Gortmaker

Minneapolis City Council approved a bid to improve Fire Station 7 at their Friday meeting. Fire Station 7, located in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, was built in 1962 and hasn't been improved in 20 years.

Ethan Nelson

After nearly two years of rejected bids, the Minneapolis City Council approved a project Friday to renovate the West Bank’s Fire Station 7.

The station, at 2000 E. Franklin Ave., was built in 1962 and last renovated in 1994.  A 2012 report from the Minneapolis Fire Department called the building’s condition “poor.”

The station serves the University of Minnesota’s West Bank as well as the Cedar-Riverside and Seward neighborhoods. Firefighters from the station responded to the New Year’s Day fire in Cedar-Riverside that injured 14 people and killed three.

“[The renovation] was supposed to happen all throughout last year,” Fire Station 7 Captain Bob Madaris said. “So we’ve been waiting awhile.”

Energy efficiency is one major issue the renovation will address, including lighting, heating and ventilation. Bathroom facilities and sleeping quarters also needed an upgrade.

Because firefighting has historically been a male-dominated profession, Minneapolis fire stations weren’t built with women in mind, Minneapolis construction management coordinator Chris Backes said. Only one Minneapolis station, Fire Station 14, has adequate bathrooms and sleeping quarters for both genders, he said.

“These new fire stations are not built that way anymore,” he said. “We’re looking to modernize the stations and represent a 50-50 balance between genders.”

Station 7’s sleeping quarters and bathrooms are mixed-gender, and the shower facilities and bathrooms are small.

The original bathrooms were built like a locker room, with no separate facility for women, so the entire bathroom and shower area has to be locked when in use.

“At first, we thought we’d just update the lights and floors; then we realized we should start looking into [expanding the bathrooms] about two years ago,” Backes said. “The changing dynamic of fire stations needs to be reflected.”

About 15 percent of Minneapolis firefighters — 57 total — are women, according to a 2012 fire department report.

The stations have been retrofitted to a point, Backes said, but not enough.

At only 13,000 square feet, Fire Station 7 doesn’t meet current or future demands, the report said.

Other problems with the station are asbestos and inadequate flooring, Backes said, which will be routine updates for the fire department. Only 30 percent of the building has air conditioning, a percentage that the project will increase.

JPMI Construction Company will handle the project for fire station 7 and fire station 5, which is southwest of 7, for $740,800.