The community came together Saturday to break ground on a new $41.2 million fire station to serve downtown Santa Monica. The new state-of-the-art facility at 1337 7th Street is scheduled to be finished in 2020 and will replace a seismically unsafe 1950’s era station down the street.

City officials and elected leaders lined up to hold golden shovels Saturday while parents and small children lined up for hot dogs at the free community event. The groundbreaking ceremony capped a decades-long effort to build the 28,000 square-foot station, which required a land swap with local developer NMS Properties. A 2007 study found the current wood frame and stucco fire station in desperate need of improvements to come up to code and withstand a major earthquake.

“It’s a little surreal for a lot of people because it’s been so long,” said Chief Bill Walker. “A lot of people, I don’t think they totally believed it would happen.”

Guests, including Chief Walker, took virtual reality tours of the future station, which will have bathrooms and dormitories for both male and female firefighters and a publicly accessible community room. Plans also call for solar panels to cut down on energy costs.

“It’s such a nice facility and it’s been so well thought out,” Walker said. “It’s a huge investment. We’re proud to have it and we’re going to take care of it.”

When it’s complete, pedestrians will be able to see fire engines and crews through four retractable glass bay doors on the first floor. The current Station 1 will remain operational through construction. The station currently houses Engine 1, Engine 6, a 100-foot ladder truck with a five-person crew, an air rescue unit and a command vehicle for a battalion chief.

There are no current plans for the old city-owned property once it becomes vacant in 2020.

Earlier this year, the City Council approved a $26.5 million contract with Bernards Bros. construction to build the new facility.

kate@smdp.com

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