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$48 million in public safety building to be built in Esquimalt

A lone orange excavator is parked on a patch of gray-brown dirt some distance from a large trailer stationed at the northern edge of a construction site at 500 Park Place in Esquimalt, BC

A little to the south, at the other end of the property, operators of two large shovels work in tandem, the tines of their buckets clawing at the ground, pulling out concrete and rock.

To the west is a four-story building and across the street to the east is a large apartment complex.

In the midst of these relatively cramped quarters, crews have begun preparing the area for a three-story building that will provide a new state-of-the-art, seismically engineered building for Esquimalt Fire Rescue Services (EFRS), Emergency Operations Center (EOC), and Capital District Office (CRD).

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

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

WITH THE TOWNSHIP OF ESQUIMALT — The plan is to complete the $48 million project by the fall of 2026. The new structure will occupy the south portion of the property. Architectural renderings show a modern structure with a grand entrance off Park Place.

Planning for the community shelter building began more than four years ago when a request for proposals went out for a preliminary study. Architects were then brought on board to carry out the design work, site studies were completed and finally a construction manager and builder were selected.

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

“The community deserves a modern building for public safety 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 allow the new use.

The new structure is being built on the property where the parish’s former 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 Center where a temporary hall was built. The interim EOC is now in the council chambers.

The EOC, Fire Department and CRD offices will be moved back to the new location once the building is complete.

The new structure will occupy the southern portion of the property. Architectural renderings show a modern structure with a grand entrance off Park Place. Pedestrian-friendly improvements will be made to the exterior of 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 extinguisher apron that will be in the same location as the old fire hall 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.

On the upper floors, the join is angled away from the neighboring residential building to the west and likewise held back from the south edge to provide an exercise area adjacent to the tubing 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, dormitories, CRD office space and training areas.

The facade will consist mainly of curved metal panels with horizontal bands and a vertical grid pattern with glazed punctuation to add light and character to the building.

EFRS Fire Chief Matt Furlot says the old fire station had reached the end of its useful life and an upgrade was necessary to allow for necessary training facilities such as the training tower and a classroom.

The price tag on the structure was higher than the original estimate, so the project had to be scaled back.

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

In the summer of 2023, the township adjusted the project’s original scope due to rising costs. The renewed design went out to tender in March.

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

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

In recent years, the construction market on Vancouver Island has seen an annual escalation rate of over 10 per cent per year as opposed to the typical annual rates of two to five per cent.

The new budget includes many costs associated with the work in addition to the final construction cost, including demolition and reduction of the old public safety building, renovation of the temporary police facilities, and construction of the temporary fire hall.

About a third of the costs of the project cover needs other than construction.

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