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McKenna continues to push for arts center at old firehouse

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  The future of the Beachmont Fire Station as a home of a city arts center could hinge on results of structural and hazardous materials analyses of the unused building.

  Ward 1 City Councillor Joanne McKenna, who also serves on the Public Arts Commission, has been a vocal proponent of converting the firehouse into an arts center, complete with artist lofts and gallery and community space. McKenna recently toured the fire station and said there is much potential in the building. “It’s a beautiful building and there is so much potential,” said McKenna. “The place needs to be cleaned out, but there is so much potential and so much room.”

  The councillor said she could see the large apparatus bay as space for a gallery and community room, while the five sleeping quarters on the second floor could be converted into artists’ lofts. McKenna said the fire department has also expressed interest in using part of the building as a fire museum to house its antique equipment.

  McKenna said she met recently with Mayor Brian Arrigo, who gave the go-ahead to have the station cleaned out and have an engineering firm conduct a structural analysis of the building.

  Elle Baker, the city’s open space and environmental planner, said a request for proposals has been put out for the analysis and could be completed in the next several months. “I think [the building] has a lot of potential, but we are kind of just in the baby steps with the structural assessment and then the hazardous materials assessment,” said Baker. “With those two pieces of information, we’ll be able to move forward to the next steps: considering what the uses could be as well as how the programming can be facilitated and who will do the facilitating for the whole process.”

  McKenna said that if the assessments show the building is not structurally sound, it would be too expensive of a project to rehab it. However, she said she is holding out hope that the fire station is structurally sound and will be put to good use. “It’s a gem and our goal is to make it work and not to get rid [of the building] and have it torn down and condos or apartments put in there,” said McKenna.

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