Design of new downtown fire station to get first review

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A city hearing examiner soon will be asked to sign off on the design of a new Indianapolis Fire Department downtown station that the department plans to build as part of a massive land swap.

The multi-step swap would make way for construction of a $43 million apartment and retail development on Massachusetts Avenue where IFD’s headquarters now stands.

It’s been in the works for nearly a year and was first reported by IBJ in March.

fire station no 7 rendering 15colCity staff has recommended approval of the fire station's design, pending details about lighting and windows. (Image via City of Indianapolis)

IFD would move its offices to the building occupied by the American Red Cross of Greater Indianapolis at 441 E. 10th Street. It would construct the fire station on the same property, which is about four blocks north of the existing IFD complex.

To make way for the fire department, the Red Cross would build a new headquarters at the former home of the Payton Wells car dealership at 1510 N. Meridian St. The dealership closed in 2007 and the building was demolished last January.

The Red Cross also demolished a two-story building to the south at 1440 N. Meridian St., the former home of WXIN-TV Channel 59, which moved to Intech Park on the northwest side in late 2003.

The final step would have a team of local developers—J.C. Hart Co., Schmidt Architects and Strongbox Commercial—construct a five-story project with about 235 apartments and 40,000 square feet of commercial space on the 1.45-acre Mass Ave site vacated by the fire department.

Meanwhile, plans for the new fire station filed with the city show a two-story, 22,825-square-foot building. The project, slated for the Red Cross' parking lot, eliminates a significant amount of unneeded parking, the filing says. Eighty-nine of the existing 138 spaces would remain.

The station would be built on the southwest corner of the property along Fort Wayne Avenue.

“It’s a public building that will be integrated into the neighborhood well, and also makes some significant opportunities along Massachusetts Avenue possible with the project that will go in its place,” said Adam Thies, director of the city’s Department of Metropolitan Development.

DMD staff is recommending approval of the project pending the submission of a lighting plan and more details about the building’s glass and windows, among other minor issues.

The station would be about 43 feet tall and rise to more than 60 feet at the top of the bell tower. The building would feature brick with limestone trim and would feature metal panels and sunshades, according to the filing.

Outdoor amenities include bike racks, a picnic area and a small basketball court.

The city’s Regional Center Hearing Examiner was to consider the design Thursday, but the city has asked for a continuance until February. Because the site is within the Regional Center overlay district, the project needs to comply with Regional Center Urban Design guidelines and requires initial approval by the city’s hearing examiner.

Axis Architecture + Interiors designed the fire station. Site work could begin in March.

Last month, IBJ reported that fire department credit union officials were set to sign off on a deal with the city to build a facility on a vacant parcel on the west side of College Avenue, just north of Massachusetts and adjacent to the fire department’s union hall.


  • pink shutters
    ...early on in this thread of comments, "An Architect" stated if the client keeps asking for pink shutters they are going to end up w/ pink shutters. I've got to believe that's what is going on: IFD is getting what they asked for.
  • designer
    The problem is that the talented architect that designed the last 3 fire stations to come out of axis isn't there anymore
    • The Problem
      The problem arises when a square peg is jammed into a round hole... same problem would occur in Carmel, Zionsville, Fishers, Westfield, Greenwood, Plainfield, et al if an industrial style fire station was designed and constructed in either of those locations. Station No. 7 is not being built on a vacant lot in an outlaying part of town. It is being wedged into long established neighborhoods in one of the largest cities in the US. There is an opportunity to design and build something special rather than your everyday run-of-the-mill "fire station."
    • So?
      It's a fire station.. it looks like one. What is the problem? What do all of you want it to look like, another industrial building?
    • MIA
      Where were you *concerned citizens* when the housing agency was pushing thru its *underwhelming design* on mass ave and ft wayne ave projects. This is a fire station not a guggenheim museum.
    • the latest
      The Regional Center Examiner delayed the review until their next hearing on Thursday 2/13 at 10a, City-County Building, Suite 1825. I encourage all that can attend to be there in support of or against the station design. This building is a massive structure that is NOT replacing the current Red Cross building. It is being added to the current site and will remain as built for decades to come. If not mistaken, it will become the largest non residential downtown structure w/ a gabled roof and asphalt shingles. This does not fit, nor blend into downtown and certainly does not compliment the three adjacent neighborhoods. There's got to be a better urban design that can function as good or better than what has been put on the table. The goal is to elevate our city to the next level and not be stuck with something future generations scratch their heads over. Our generation has been dealing with the Lugar Tower design for years and shouldn't add to it w/ another poorly designed building to the north.
    • Don't forget
      How much direction the client gives, this is not just the architectural firm.
    • Adam Thies
      Found this article about Adam Thies from 11/30/2013. Looks like he and the IBJ were just feeding us a bunch of lies with the article titled, "DMD's Thies pushing for better design" http://www.ibj.com/dmds-thies-pushing-for-better-design-more-projects/PARAMS/article/44846
    • letter of remonstrance
      Who else will be sending a letter of remonstrance? Mine went in the mail today. I even splurged on certified mail to make sure it doesn't get "lost."
    • Disappointed
      When Adam Thies joined DMD I thought the bar was going to be raised on downtown design… The new AUL garage is t he poster child for lost opportunities. In all fairness, this was approved before Adams arrival, but you would think a project as important as our City's Fire Station headquarters would warrant special attention. Today this type of retro design is adopted by smaller communities (except Columbus, IN) that are grasping for a historic identity. Indpls should be beyond that.
    • Meh.
      I don't love it, but nor do I hate it. I remember all the hub-bub around Station 14 (by the Children's Museum) as well. 14 was a slightly more modern approach, but if memory serves me - it had significant problems right after it was built (mostly roof). These facilities need to be cost effective to not only build, but OPERATE and MAINTAIN. Additionally, the scale of this facility is probably larger than most realize which complicates the design further. Certainly I have seen much better work out of Axis, but if I had to wager a guess - they did the best they could given the parameters they had to follow. I think this facility will be incremental upgrade over the existing Red Cross building at East/Ft. Wayne split and maybe even a nice cornerstone... Yes, it's a little suburban, but offensive - hardly. The design is contemporary enough to look current, but throwback enough to fit in the with the Chatham Arch/St. Jo fabric. It's safe.
    • Come Together
      If people feel strongly about design in Indy, please file a remonstrance against this project. As tax payers it's our right to be able to do so and if we don't speak up (in general - for this project or any others) there's nothing that we should be complaining about. The public meetings are set up for this very purpose. It's easy to type condemning words from behind a keyboard on a blog, but unless we take further action our posts mean nothing. As others have said, if you can't make it to the meeting please send letters, emails, etc. to those at the City!
    • Remonstrance
      Don't give up because you can't go to the meeting. You can write a letter of remonstrance to the Planner, who must include it in the hearing materials provided to the Regional Center Hearing Officer. Sorry Jeff... Address letters to Mr. Jeffrey York, 1821 City County Building, 200 E. Washington St., Indianapolis, IN 46204. Reference 2013-REG-143. Read the Indianapolis Urban Design Guidelines first, and cite chapter and verse as to why this is fugly. Start with the roof being grossly inappropriate for a public or commercial building downtown.
    • Meeting times
      It is such a shame that these meetings are always scheduled in the middle of the day. Most people, including myself, have jobs and just can't take the day off for something like this, as much as we would like to. Hopefully some of you will be able to.
    • Remonstrate...anyone?
      Looks like the Regional Center Hearings are set for Feb 13th and 27th. This web sight will provide detailed information on the dockets for the meetings (once determined). The IBJ article states the City has asked for the hearing to be delayed until February. So it's safe to say the time to remonstrate will be at the hearing in February-which is open to the public. http://calendar.indy.gov/CalendarNOW.aspx?fromdate=1%2f1%2f2014&todate=1%2f31%2f2014&display=Month
    • big ole ugly dog
      Likely to take a group of 35 to 50 downtown residents to remonstrate this design at the meeting before anyone so much as raises an eyebrow over our comments. I would agree the IFD HQ requested the pink shutters. The Mayor's Office is so desperate to get this thing moving I'd say they are on their collective knees w/ rubber stamp in hand. The current Station 7 is falling apart and antiquated, the plan to use Mass Ave for development is brilliant. However, it's short sighted for the City to rush this through and spend our tax dollars to deliver a dud on Ft. Wayne Ave. Shows they could care less about the other "Avenue." At least the folks from the suburbs using Central/Ft. Wayne Ave for their morning commute will feel right at home when they hit Ft. Wayne Ave 'cuz that big ole ugly dog will be staring them down as soon as they turn the corner!
    • Cartoonish
      I don't think I've ever seen so much agreement on an article in the IBJ before. I have to agree with all of the other posters, this design is very cartoonish. I can understand that Axis runs a business and is in the business to make money, but don't you think they would have a little pride in the work they put out?? Especially in such a high profile location??
    • IFD
    • Ugh!
      The existing fire station on Mass Ave even looks better that this one. This is suburban at best. The IFD should be ashamed of this. C'mon, if you are using our tax money, at least come up with a better design. It really does not take more money, just creativity.
    • Scott Olson
      Scott Olson, could you let us know if there is any way for the public to provide input since the DMD is obviously blind.
      • Oops, wrong photo
        IBJ! You accidentally included a picture of the Greenwood Fire Station. Please issue a correction, ASAP!
      • We can do better...
        This does not represent a progressive approach to the design of an important public building; our citizens and our community deserve better. The City and IFD should follow the lead of the Cultural Trail which has shown that world class design has a place in our public environment.
      • What!?!
        Why does downtown Shelbyville get a better looking fire station than downtown Indianapolis? When will our city that always claims to be "world class" start demanding better????
      • I Doubt This is the Fault of Axis
        I highly doubt that this is really what Axis would like to have designed on this site. My guess is that the Fire Station Chief and/or other staff shot down any modern design that Axis likely proposed. I don't think Axis would have done this of their own accord. When a client asks for pink shutters three times, you better give them pink shutters...
      • living proof
        This is living proof that the design firm needs the money more than pushing the envelop into a more progressive and modern design. Unfortunately all local design firms are in the same trap! No one locally walks anymore, they just give in and do what the mediocre client wants and says. A reality that keeps this city in a safe and basic middle of the road design appearance.
      • Sad too
        Looks like they've decided to use IFD's recently constructed stations, throw them up in the air and take what landed. It's true, look at them: http://www.indy.gov/egov/city/dps/ifd/Pages/home.aspx (stations 9, 14, 18, 29, 34, 43, 44, 55)
      • First Thought
        Why is IFD building a suburban fire station in the middle of downtown? I'm not an architecture or design expert by any means but can clearly see that this design isn't at all appropriate for the location. Just think of the amazing design features that could be incorporated into this sort of building, this is vapid and uninspiring and makes me sad.
        • Central Ave.
          I agree with Mark. It's a horrible idea to keep Central one-way with the positioning of this fire station. Plus, it would help slow the traffic down on this street. Central is a race track!
        • timely responses on Central
          Yeah, we met with the mayor's office on that. They aren't changing the street. We'd even queried if it wouldn't be better sited on East street for the apron and egress issues. No dice. As for the less-than-mediocre look of the thing, I THINK what the architects were trying to do was sort of vaguely reference the retired station two on mass, which is a museum and union hall I think. They probably should have walked the site instead. Neither of our nearby buildings try particularly hard to look very 19th century (even though they were built about then). Certainly the Braxton next door doesn't. At any rate, this site is supposed to kind of operate as the IFD's downtown flagship. It should be a LITTLE inspiring, don't you think? Brave people do incredible things, and give their lives for city. Yet this key building looks like its meant to disappear into some horrible golf community. It's not even as interesting as the station near the children's museum.
        • central
          ...until there are issues with timely responses to runs just north of the station on Central Ave.
        • Central to remain southbound
          I have it from a top authority that central will remain one way southbound.
          • Shelbyville
            And take a long look at the station in Shelbyville compared to the new design for no 7. http://www.axisarch.com/ go to portfolio > civic > Shelbyville fire station no 2.
          • Suburban indeed
            Go to Google Maps and paste "White River Twp Fire Station #51, Olive Branch Rd, Greenwood, IN 46143" This station's little brother.
          • Check out Axis' web-site
            Sadly, there are two more interesting fire station designs by Axis on their website: www.axisarch.com. I've always like the one next to the Children's Museum. Any word on if Central is going to be changed back to two-way traffic because of the location of this fire station?
            • Can we seriously not do better than this in our downtown?
              I'm not one to be overly critical of architecture since everyone has their own tastes, but this looks like something from my son's Fisher Price toy set. Shame on the city staff for recommending approval of this junk.
            • Don't Stop There
              Perhaps they'll incorporate a fire truck design into the shingles like they do w/ tractors on barn roofs.
            • Downtown Record!
              Looks like this building will establish a downtown Indy record for most shingles used on one building! Splendid.
            • Serisouly?
              Axis came up with a terrific plan that would have fit nicely with the current structures on this side of Ft. Wayne Ave. but unfortunately the decision is made by those without the expertise in design and architecture. Instead of listening to the professionals, it was quickly replaced with a station fit for Carmel or Zionsville. Now we’ll have a confusing mixture of the existing Red Cross bldg., the Lugar Tower/Braxton structures, and a touch of the suburbs to feast our eyes with for the next 50 years. Yes it difficult to please everyone, that’s why it’s best to defer to the experts and trust their judgment. Can hardly wait to look out my “windows to Carmel” from across the street!
            • yuck
              Why are we getting the reject designs of Carmel for this fire station? This lot is a gateway into downtown and should have a modern, iconic design.
            • A bell tower? Really?
              Ugh. And we have to work next to this thing. Proof that if you need to build fugly to get it past the neighborhood board, time to get a better board.
            • Indyman
              Trying to make something new look old is exactly what the burbs is about. What is there now is contemporary and if I wanted to look at this ugly thing I would have moved to the burbs. I love the old existing architecture of downtown but you can NEVER make something new look old well.
            • Good design. Lots of historic roots from the traditional tower to the italiantesque style. I think the tower should be attached to the truck bays and not the admin side. As is typical of most early renderings, there is a lot that can't be seen including how it interacts with the lot and the street, but good first shot at it. I certainly don't think a contemporary design is what is needed in this area. Leave that to the burbs.
              • No!
                I agree with others! That is the ugliest thing I have ever seen for downtown. I live a block away and will have to look at this every day. If I wanted to live in the suburbs and look at this ugly thing I would!
              • Initial reaction
                Looks perfect... for West Clay or Zionsville, et al. Not the look I'd expect to see downtown.
              • Axis!
                What's the deal Axis!? We've seen your contemporary fire station designs, where did this one come from? Throw it out and start copying your previous work.

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