Community interest may save Mason’s old downtown firehouse from becoming a parking lot, reports Enquirer contributor Shaun Elliot Zetzer.
The city will hold a public hearing on May 11 to discuss the future of the firehouse after City Council votes on whether to rezone the property from residential to a business district.
City officials are currently deciding between private investment and demolition, according to City Manager Eric Hansen. The building has been vacant since completion of the city’s new firehouse in late 2010.
Rezoning the property to a business district, as recommended by the planning commission, would give the city added flexibility, according to Service Director Richard Fair.
“There would be several uses (for the property) now if (the rezoning) is approved by city council,” he said.
The city has also begun putting together a request for proposals from possible buyers.
Zetzer reports on the details of the building and its history:
A city appraisal done in January valued the building and property at $340,000, but the unused building needs substantial upgrades and modifications. Due to a line-of-sight obstruction, the Church Street wall will have to be scaled back 10 feet. That project alone is estimated to cost $40,000. “That will all be listed in request for proposals when they are sent out,” Fair said.
The firehouse was built in 1964 as the city’s original volunteer fire station. There has been some dispute over the historic value of the property. “All by itself, it does not have historical value,” said City Manager Eric Hansen, although he conceded it has sentimental value. In 1974, it was damaged when tornados swept through the city.
The city has received multiple proposals to save or retool the building. One Mason native, Teri Shields, submitted a 13-page proposal in March to remodel the 4,116-square-foot firehouse into an artistic business hub.
She offered a $250,000 commitment to retool the property, and $1,000 to buy it, hoping the city would find value in added tax dollars, as well as saving the cost of would-be demolition. She has gotten little feedback from the city since her proposal, she said.
The city originally planned to demolish the building when improvements were done to Mason-Montgomery Road, Hansen said. “We did a road improvement around it knowing that in the future we would demolish that building,” he said.
The community interest shown in the building caused city officials to reconsider its plan to make the property a temporary parking lot.
“There was some interest by the community to use the building and that is why city council is going forward with a proposal,” Fair said. “If we get something that fits (our requirements), then I guess the building will stay.”
“I think the people of Mason should have a say in if we want to see this building demolished,” Shields said.
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