September 21, 2016

PFARS Inches Closer to Fundraising Goal For Construction of New Headquarters

With a $500,000 contribution from Princeton University added to its coffers this month, the Princeton Fire and Rescue Squad (PFARS) is a few steps closer to construction of a new $7.5 million headquarters at the former location of Princeton’s Public Works Department between Route 206 and Valley Road.

“We hope to start public fundraising by the end of the year,” said Mark Freda, squad president. “The hope is that come May of next year, we might break ground. We have a lot of fundraising to do and we have to go through the town approval process, but we don’t know what variances we need until the right-of-way situation gets resolved.”

That situation involves finding out from the New Jersey Department of Transportation exactly where the building can be placed along Route 206. Architects Pacheco Ross Associates, a firm that specializes in emergency response facilities, has been on board with the project since it was first proposed over a decade ago.

PFARS outgrew its existing facility on North Harrison Street years ago. Built in 1963 when old-fashioned station wagons were used as ambulances, the building is too small for the ambulance vans, rescue truck special services vehicle and other equipment used by the squad. The office cubicle designed for one person is used by all of the officers. As the town has grown, so has demand for the kind of rescue services the squad provides.

Two years ago, Princeton Council approved a proposal to form a partnership with the squad in which the town would get the existing building plus two Cape Cod style houses PFARS owns just behind it, in return for a long-term land lease for the new facility. Princeton will own both properties.

The site for the new headquarters, which is directly behind the municipal building and diagonally opposite the town’s fire department headquarters, has been cleared and remediated. PFARS has hired the civil engineering firm Van-Note Harvey for the project.

A traffic signal will be installed at Route 206 and Valley Road. “We will also do some improvements to the Cherry Hill Road/206 intersection,” Mr. Freda said. “The town is dealing directly with the DOT, and that’s important because we have to know exactly what improvements they’re doing to those intersections. If they change the width or whatever, that could impact us.”

The contribution from the University was part of a deal brokered with the town a few years ago. “Now, we’re at the point where we need to pay for architects, engineers, and others that allow us to start all this work we need to do to plan the building,” Mr. Freda said. “We’ve hired a development officer, and she’s working diligently to get our whole fundraising effort set up and ready to start.”

A conceptual drawing of the building exists, but Mr. Freda was reluctant to release it because the design will likely change. Construction, once it gets underway, could take about 14 months. Regarding the hoped-for groundbreaking date of next May, Mr. Freda said, “It would be extremely optimistic and aggressive to break ground by then, but that’s what we’re going to push for.”

Meanwhile, PFARS continues to operate out of its building on North Harrison Street. “We’re using it a lot every day for EMT classes, and all sorts of things,” Mr. Freda said. “It’s pitifully obvious that it’s woefully inadequate.”