For sale: Historical building, four-car garage

With a $2.5 million price, Silver Spring’s old fire station could become hot property

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

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Chris Rossi⁄The Gazette
Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service personnel moved Sunday from the old Fire Station 1 on Georgia Avenue to the new station down the road near the CSX train tracks. The price tag on the 100-year-old station: $2.5 million.

The Silver Spring Volunteer Fire Department’s station could be almost anything: a funky restaurant, offices or retail space.

But whatever it becomes, the Silver Spring Historical Society hopes the building, which the department purchased in 1918, will be preserved.

Since a new fire station has opened across the street, housing not only the department but also a police substation and the Silver Spring Urban District, the volunteer fire department is selling its former building at 8131 Georgia Ave. The building was constructed in 1914.

The building went on the market this week, said Nathan Pealer, an investment specialist with Marcus & Millichap in Washington, D.C. Pealer, who is representing the volunteer fire department, has also been working with the Silver Spring Historical Society.

The station is on the county’s Locational Atlas and Index of Historic Places, which provides buildings designated as historic some protection from demolition, according to Jerry McCoy, president of the Silver Spring Historical Society.

The department bought the building for $5,500 in 1918, McCoy said.

Now, the volunteer fire department is seeking a minimum bid of $2.5 million. That money will pay for a new ladder truck, said volunteer fire chief Roger A. McGary.

McGary said the department is hoping for a quick sell, because when the county ordered new trucks, the Silver Spring department ‘‘piggybacked” on their order, and the department would like to pay the county back. So far, he said, the department has gotten between 30 and 50 calls from people interested in purchasing the property.

As far as the new station goes, he said, ‘‘everyone seems happy. It’s extremely functional.”

It’s not unusual to sell a building such as a fire station, Pealer said.

‘‘There are a number of projects like this all across the country where there have been retail conversions of fire stations,” he said. The department has heard some suggestions as to what could be done with the building, from retail space to offices to a mixed-use site.

‘‘We’re just hoping that a sensitive buyer is out there,” McCoy said, adding he hopes the buyer would keep the building intact and renovate it creatively. ‘‘That building is just screaming to have a restaurant in it.”

The footprint of the two-level station is about 6,000 square feet and the building sits on a 7,500 square foot lot.

The bay for the fire engines would be perfect for seating, McCoy said, and in the rear, there’s room for a kitchen — in fact, it already has a small one. Additionally, he said, it might make a good entertainment venue.

‘‘What an incredible coup that would be for south Silver Spring,” McCoy said.

Adaptive reuse, preservation and renovation are not unique concepts in Silver Spring, particularly south Silver Spring. Part of the former Canada Dry bottling plant facade was preserved and made part of a new condominium building. Several old office buildings, like the Gramax, were converted into residential units. The old Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Station is now owned by Montgomery Preservation Inc. and often used by the community.

Preserving some older, historic structures like the bottling plant and the fire station is important, McCoy said, particularly when newer buildings are also being constructed in the neighborhood. ‘‘That’s what gives a community its sense of place.”