Designs for Lincoln's four new fire stations received high marks Tuesday from the city's Urban Design Committee.

Several months ago, the committee criticized the design for a fifth fire station being built near the Lincoln Airport to replace the existing Station 11, and suggested the city bring better-looking, more inspiring building designs for future stations.

"I think you took the comments to heart," said Tom Huston.

"These structures are attractive. They are buildings the neighbors can be proud of," he said of the four new stations. 

If anything, committee members suggested the architects make the entrances more distinctive for three of the four stations. 

The design for Station 15, which will serve as both a fire and police station at 6601 Pine Lake Road, already has a distinctive entrance. The architects should be more creative with the other three entrances, committee members suggested. 

"These are important civic buildings. I don't think it needs to be camouflaged. I think a little bit of design flair, especially at the entry would be nice," said Gill Peace.

Keep a footprint that is similar for each of the buildings, but make the entrances stand out, he said.

But architects from Davis Design said city staff want to make the buildings fit in with the neighborhood, not stand out. 

"That's too bad. I'm wanting a show piece," said Michelle Penn, committee chair.

There is a balance here between the community knowing where the fire station is and thinking it is too fancy, said Pat Borer, assistant fire chief. "We don't want people to look at it and say, 'Oh, look at that Taj Mahal.'"

All four new stations and Station 11 use the same basic footprint internally, designed to get firefighters to trucks and engines quickly, no matter where they are in the building. But architects tried to make the exteriors blend with each neighborhood.

At the four new stations, the front garage doors for the truck and engine bays will be similar: outlined in red, with a lot of glass so people can see the trucks and engines inside. 

All the buildings will be made of the same structural steel and will use the same basic materials with different coloring, said Matt Metcalf of Davis Design. 

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That includes brick, stone masonry veneer, and cement board. 

The city gets significant cost savings by doing that, he said.

The buildings are slightly over budget based on early estimates by the construction manager, Hausmann Construction, so the fire and police departments are analyzing ways to reduce the cost, Borer said.

The buildings are intended to last 50 to 75 years.

The three fire stations and the police/fire station are in growth areas at the edges of the city. They are being funded by a voter-approved quarter-cent city sales tax that began about two years ago.

The city has purchased land for three of the buildings but not for the northeast fire station.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7250 or nhicks@journalstar.com

On Twitter @LJSNancyHicks.

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Nancy Hicks reports on Lincoln city government, but she’s been following the leaders of local and state government for more than 40 years.

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