East Nashville to get new fire station — but will it be distinctive?

Sunday, June 26, 2011 at 10:05pm

Above all, a fire station must be functional. But an almost excessive emphasis on functionality has sometimes rendered Nashville’s post-1970s firehalls generic warehouses for storing heavy machinery. 

With work expected to begin within eight months on Station No. 2, at 416 Russell St. in East Nashville, that trend might end. 

Nashville-based Gobbell Hays Partners is designing the station, which will replace a former fire marshal office. The firm, known for quality work, is determining materials, shapes, color scheme and height for the building, which will aid the nearby historic Holly Street Fire Hall. 

A Board of Zoning Appeals hearing is slated for July 7. Longtime Edgefield resident and neighborhood activist Carol Norton said she welcomes the station and is unconcerned about noise nuisance and new traffic intensity from fire trucks. 

“It may [alleviate] the illegal parking that happens [on that site] during events,” she said. 

Kim Lawson, fire department spokeswoman, said she’s received no calls from neighbors concerned about fire trucks on their streets. 

One could argue that, notwithstanding the Metro schools built since the 1960s — a collection of painfully bland buildings that those who recall when public structures were dignified and detailed might find depressing — fire stations represent the city’s least-daring civic structures. 

A glaring example is downtown’s Station 9. With five truck bays, Station 9 is, by necessity, low-slung, which exaggerates a massive asphalt roof. Single lines of a color-contrasting brick — some suggesting a pinkish hue — run horizontally, further intensifying the structure’s flatness. A windowless wall towers over Third Avenue. Various exposed and partially concealed mechanical elements fail to lend what could have been a sleek industrial vibe. 

Ron Gobbell, president of the firm designing the new station, lives downtown and said he appreciates how quality architecture interacts with citizens. He said it’s too soon to predict whether this would be a building of distinction.

“There are landmark structures, like libraries, in cities,” Gobbell said, “We’re hoping to have a fire station that will represent the neighborhood well.”