Another city landmark might soon be just a memory.
Next year’s city budget includes a proposal to sell Fire Station 1 and build a new station elsewhere, or construct a new station “on or near the existing site.” The city estimates that the sale of the existing building might bring as much as $1.2 million.
Commercial Realtor Tim Leigh, who has extensive experience with downtown property, characterized the estimated price as “reasonable.”
“The land alone is worth $20 per foot,” he said. “And even if the building is just valued as a shell, it’s worth what they’re asking — maybe more, depending on condition and layout.”
Interim City Manager Mike Anderson confirmed that the city has been talking with a developer who has expressed interest in trading a vacant parcel of land near downtown for the fire station site, on the corner of Colorado Avenue and Weber Street.
If the negotiations are unsuccessful, Anderson said the city likely would either sell or renovate the building.
However, he dismissed the concerns of those who fear that the building might be demolished, describing the station as a “beautiful historic structure” ideally suited for adaptive re-use. Anderson said that the structural and design deficiencies of the existing building could be overcome by new construction and renovation.
But a careful reading of the budget appears to indicate that the city has not ruled out the possibility of razing the station and building a replacement on the site.
On page 16-21 of the 2008 budget, the city’s position is stated in detail.
“Problem Identification: Fire Station 1 is an old station that no longer meets Fire Department requirements … the Health and Safety Study completed in 2004 identified significant health issues … A new facility is needed to address these deficiencies.
Recommended Solution: Replace Fire Station 1 with a new station built on or near the existing site. Design will depend on whether the Fire Department can secure an alternate site or must rebuild on the existing site.”
The city proposes to fund the estimated $6.7 million cost of a new fire station with Certificates of Participation (COPs), carrying annual payments of $477,000 over a 25-year period.
COPs are a form of long-term debt that does not require voter approval.
But not everyone is keen on the idea of losing the city’s first fire house.
Judith Rice-Jones of the Historic Preservation Alliance characterized the building as “important to the community.”
Fire Station 1, which opened Nov. 1 1925, was designed by noted Colorado Springs architect Thomas MacLaren, whose other work includes City Auditorium, City Hall, Grace Episcopal Church and Sacred Heart Church.
“It’s an incredibly cruel and bitter irony, that after the city-owned Pioneers’ Museum mounted an exemplary exhibition on MacLaren, that they’re even considering selling or tearing down that exceptionally beautiful building,” she said.
The Gazette-Telegraph in 1925 described the new building in glowing terms.
“The new fire station is one of the most attractive of the new municipal buildings. … The total cost will be about $40,000. … The exterior face brick is buff of Canon City make, and with red brick inserts appropriately placed. The trim is terra cotta, buttresses and iron balconies relieve the external faces of walls. The roof is of Spanish tile, all in salmon tone.”
Local architect Mike Collins, who 40 years ago designed the brick building immediately to the south of Fire Station 1, said the building ought to be retained and renovated.
“It’s just a magnificent building,” he said. “That building that Bud Roberts and I designed in 1967, which was what the city insisted on at the time, ought to be torn down, and the south fa