Chilmark chooses architect for emergency services buildings

Keenan + Kenny Architects will design new fire station and ambulance HQ.

Selectmen Jim Malkin (left) and Warren Doty discuss whether to sign on with Keenan and Kenny architects for the new emergency services building project. - Lucas Thors

Chilmark selectmen decided at a special meeting Wednesday to enter into contract negotiations with Keenan + Kenny Architects to design plans for a new fire station and ambulance headquarters. 

Located in Falmouth, Keenan + Kenny Architects have a history of being involved with major town renovations and construction projects here on the Island. They were the architects chosen for the Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Station at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport, the new West Tisbury town hall and police station, and most recently the Oak Bluffs fire station.

Selectman Bill Rossi said the public safety building committee has been meeting regularly, and decided at a Tuesday meeting that they would choose Keenan + Kenny out of three possible candidates.

“The committee interviewed three architectural firms alongside our owner’s project manager (OPM),” Rossi said. “Each interview took about an hour, and although they all seemed like excellent candidates, most of the votes went to Keenan + Kenny.”

The other candidates being considered for the project were Galante Architecture of Cambridge and Pacheco Ross Architects of Latham, N.Y. 

“This architect has worked with our OPM several times, and there is a certain level of comfort that comes with that,” Rossi said of Keenan + Kenny. “They have a track record on the Island that is very impressive to me, but they also have a record of coming in under-budget and on time, and they seemed very enthusiastic about the project.”

Rossi noted that the West Tisbury town hall project came in under budget and well ahead of schedule. “We know how they work; our OPM has done two projects with them on the Island. I think we will be very well-represented,” Rossi said.

He also said the location of their offices is a benefit, especially because their OPM lives in Sandwich, which is just a short distance from Falmouth.

“I move that we enter into contract negotiations as soon as possible. We are hoping to finish negotiations by the end of the year,” Rossi said.

Selectman Jim Malkin asked whether the public safety building committee has made Keenan + Kenny aware of some of the concerns raised within the community. “Are they aware of the concerns our citizens have regarding the scale of the project, particularly as it relates to the Oak Bluffs fire facility?” Malkin asked.

Rossi said one of the first comments from the architecture firm during the interview was, “We understand this is your fire station. We are aware of what you and your community want.”

According to Rossi, the firm is also privy to the town’s rustic image and fiscally conservative reputation.

Selectmen chair Warren Doty added that the firm also said, “We don’t want a monument to Keenan + Kenny in Chilmark.”

He said he was recently at the airport and saw the size and scale of the “overpowering” fire station designed by Keenan + Kenny. “That is an example of something we can’t have here,” Doty said.

On either side of the ambulance building, Doty noted the current abutters are two major Chilmark institutions — the Yard, and the Chilmark Community Church. 

“We need to emphasize that the ambulance building will be respectful of both the Yard and the church. The fire building also needs to work well with our existing town hall,” Doty said.

Doty said it’s essential that the selectmen and the public safety building committee work closely with the OPM and the architecture firm to make a convincing and comprehensive pitch to townspeople.

“We need to have a winning design that really convinces 80 percent of Chilmark residents that this is a good thing; we need to convince everyone at town meeting,” Doty said. “I know that this is going to come out great, but we do need to be aware that the public is going to examine this very carefully.”

The town will start working on contract negotiations and compensation for the architect. A special selectmen’s meeting will be posted for Dec. 30, at 10 am, to officially ratify a contract.