CATHEDRAL CITY – Construction on a new, single-story, mid-century modern fire station is expected to begin this spring and be completed in 2020 on Buddy Rogers Avenue near Date Palm Drive.
The new, 9,800-square-foot fire station will be twice the size of the existing 4,800-square-foot structure at 36913 Date Palm Drive. The new building will be located directly northwest of its current location.
The new fire station, estimated to cost $8.2 million, is a project being coordinated by the City Urban Revitalization Corporation (CURC), a non-profit that acts as the master developer for the downtown property that used to be part of the former redevelopment agency, according to Chris Parman, communications and events manager. It negotiates land deals with potential developers for the benefit of the community.
Bids on the new fire station will be opened Thursday, Jan. 10. CURC will know after the bids are open if the $8.2 million estimated budget to build the fire station is sufficient, Parman said. The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians provided $5.5 million of the budget and CURC is providing the balance based on land sales it generates from downtown property it owns.
If bids are in line with the engineer’s estimate, construction should begin in April or May of this year, Parman said.
The existing facility, built in the 1970s, is antiquated and quickly closing in on 50 years old. It has had mold issues, which have been remediated; a buckled floor due to ground movement; and lacks proper heating, cooling and ventilating in which firefighters can live, Chief Paul Wilson told Uken Report. The bathrooms are also very small.
“We really don’t have any facilities for female firefighters, which is always a concern looking to the future,” Wilson said. “We’re designing a larger facility to accommodate us into the future when we will have female firefighters – hopefully sooner rather than later.”
Cathedral City currently has no female firefighters.
“We really desire to have them,” Wilson said. “We’re recruiting all the time.”
The new fire station will also feature drive-thru bays so firefighters won’t have to back into the station as they do now.
“Those are always a concern for us because that means we have to pull out into Date Palm, block traffic, and back into the fire station,” Wilson said. “All new fire stations are designed with drive-thru bays. It’s really for the safety of not only the public so we don’t block the roadway, but also for the safety of our firefighters. Accidents are more frequent when you have to back up than they are when you just drive through.”
The new fire station is expected to serve the city – and its growth — for the next 50 years. Estimates for the 2020 Census indicate that Cathedral City will be home to about 58,000 people, roughly 3,000 more than currently live in the community, Wilson said. In season, October to April, an additional 17,000 call Cathedral City home, according to Wilson.
The new precinct house, like the city’s other fire stations, will provide a 4- to 6-minute response time to the area it serves, which includes all of the Cove community along East Palm Canyon Drive, along Data Palm Drive all the way to Dinah Shore Drive. Each of the city’s three station’s is strategically located to respond to an incident within 1 ½ miles in any direction of the station — and within 4 to 6 minutes.
“The reason for that is brain damage starts occurring four to six minutes of a medical incident,” Wilson said. “House fires double in size in that four- to six-minute time frame, so we want to get there to be able to intervene for a medical emergency or be able to put out a fire.”
In addition to being old and, in some ways, dysfunctional, part of the driving force behind the new fire station is to make way for a new casino. The new casino will be built where Fire Station 411 is currently located.
As announced in 2017, the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians plans to build a new gaming and entertainment development on nearly 13 acres in Downtown Cathedral City. The initial development plans for the property at the corner of Date Palm Drive and East Palm Canyon Drive include a casino, restaurants/bars, retail and mixed-use space, and Tribal government offices.
The casino development is one of four anchors designed to make Downtown Cathedral City an entertainment destination for residents and visitors alike. Other anchors include the newly refurbished Mary Pickford Theatre, a new Downtown Amphitheater and Park adjacent to the city’s parking structure with construction now underway, and the Coachella Valley Repertory Theatre.
“What we’re really proud of is that the City Council and the CURC board both saw the vision of what a casino could do for the downtown,” Wilson said. “So, as part of that, we were the recipients of replacing a much-needed old facility with a much-needed new facility.”
The Fire Department responds to about 5,900 calls annually. The majority, about 4,800 are medical. Of those, about 3,400 are transported by ambulance.
For Wilson and his team, the new fire station, which will accommodate eight personnel, isn’t solely about bricks and mortar.
“It’s going to be a point of pride for the community, not only because of the immediate service that we’re able to deliver, but also because it’s going to be adjacent to a casino, which is going to get a lot of visibility,” Wilson said. “So, when people come to the casino, one of the first public buildings they’re going to see is the fire station. We think that’s always important because we serve not only as an emergency function, but we also serve as a resource for a lot of other activities.”
Residents and visitors alike look to the local fire station as an all-knowing source of information for directions, car seat inspections, and blood pressure checks. A fire station is also a popular tour destination for children, grandchildren and schoolchildren. It is also a resource for visitors looking for information about the community.
“The fire station is always kind of a pseudo chamber of commerce because we’re always open,” Wilson said. “People come to town and they stop by the fire station to see what’s going on in the community. I think it’s really going to be a point of pride for the community.”