By PENNY FLETCHER
Hillsborough County Fire Chief Ron Rogers says a recent study on future area growth has resulted in updated plans for new and renovated fire stations.
After an economic downturn, growth is picking up again, especially in pockets like Big Bend Road and the US 41 industrial area in the north Apollo Beach — Port Redwing area.
Some developments, like Waterset and the Port, have grown faster than anticipated, while the Southbend Mall is lagging behind what was expected. On the southwest side of I-75 at Big Bend Road, Southbend is planned to be larger than Westfield in Brandon, but it has not yet broken ground due to the lack of big anchor stores.
“We’ve revisited a few areas and changed some of our plans,” Rogers said.
A year ago, the county planned to renovate and expand the Riverview station at 9205 Kevin Dr. off Balm-Riverview Road. Now it plans to demolish that station and build a new one on the same property.
“They had to really show me some figures because it’s hard to believe there would have been so much work to bring it up to today’s standards that it would have actually cost more to renovate than build a whole new structure,” said Rogers. “But that’s true. So we’re going to have a new station there.”
First, though, is a renovation of the existing station in Apollo Beach on Golf and Sea Boulevard that has already gone to the design phase. An artist’s rendering should be available for print soon, he said.
After Apollo Beach, a new Fire Rescue station will be built in the Bloomingdale area at the corner of Bloomingdale Avenue and Bell Shoals. “It will be brick on the outside,” Rogers said. “Starting in Ruskin, we adopted the ‘look’ of the individual community.”
Although all the interiors of new stations will be built similar to the Ruskin station recently built on College Avenue, the exteriors will attempt to mirror the look of their surrounding communities, the chief said.
Following the new Bloomingdale station will be one at Springhead in Plant City, which will have a wrap-around porch like buildings in that area.
Those two are at the stage of evaluating bids that have already been turned in.
The Riverview station and a new station to be built at the intersection of SR 674 and CR 579 in Wimauma are just now going out to bid.
Also new to the plan is a station to be built at the very north end of Apollo Beach on US 41 north of the highway’s entrance to Caribbean Isles. The department also owns land at Powell Road and US 41 in Gibsonton, and a station is also planned there.
That area, with industrial zoning between the Big Bend corridor and the Port, is expected to expand widely, he said.
“That fact, plus all the new housing developments in the area, make new stations a ‘must’ for a good response time,” Rogers said. He says he hopes roads will keep up with the development so bottlenecks that now exist in those areas — especially at rush hours — will not impede emergency vehicles.
“We’re building in some benchmarks, but this is our five-year plan,” Rogers said.