Historic Fire Station 37 likely to turn into a private home?

April 18, 2011 at 8:47 pm | In West Seattle history, West Seattle news | 20 Comments

If you’ve driven by the city-landmark former Fire Station 37 and noticed a new sign, here’s what it’s about: The city Finance Department is recommending the City Council approve plans to sell the building at 35th and Othello, since the city has no further use for it. It was vacated when Engine 37 and its team moved into their new, larger station a few blocks south last October. This recommendation triggers a 30-day comment period before the Council moves ahead with the process of putting the site on the market. But this process actually started nine months ago (here’s our report from July), so there’s already a fair amount of information on what the city expects might happen. Ahead, how to comment, as well as what sort of interest the city has already received:

Documents sent around by the city (the links are here) note that the site’s potential is limited because the zoning is single-family (5000 sf). The early phase of the process, last summer and fall, did result in some expression of interest, summarized by the city as:

While one person questioned the landmark designation and did not agree with the determination that the old fire station should be preserved, a couple of responders thought the property should be held until the real estate market improved. Ten (later expanded to 12) different parties proposed a private or public use for the facility, including private homes, museums and/or community centers, art gallery and/or performance space, etc.

That’s taken from a report you can read here, which later got even more specific. From this report:

… FAS received two specific proposals from nonprofit groups with a 501(c)3 designation. Sustainable West Seattle proposed that the property be used to provide a range of community services, including but not limited to a satellite tool library, community seed bank, and office space for neighborhood councils and small community groups, and public meeting rooms. This proposal may require City funding for implementation. Puget Sound Group of NW Painters proposed acquiring the property for its headquarters, including an art gallery, art workshops, office space, visiting artists and archives. This group would propose to purchase the property at fair market value. In addition to these proposals, FAS was contacted by a range of other nonprofit groups interested in the property; potential uses included two museums, and community centers targeted toward a range of different demographic groups.

…The most likely buyer of the property would be interested in developing this property into a single‐family residence. FAS received four specific proposals in 2010 to use Station 37 as a private residence. Several of these proposals envisioned Accessory uses in addition to the residential use, including but not limited to storage for fire memorabilia, a coffeehouse or café, day care, tutoring services. Some of these are generally permitted as Accessory uses or Home Occupations; others may not be permitted in single‐family zones.

Apart from residential uses, FAS received two specific proposals for private commercial ventures – a dance studio/performing arts space and a glass studio/hotshop/gallery with rentable office space. These commercial uses are not allowed in single‐family zones. A purchaser could seek an Administrative Conditional Use permit from the Department of Planning and Development under the provision for use of landmark structures, but would be required to demonstrate that it was not financially feasible to utilize the property for single‐ family use. FAS has received a number of other inquiries regarding the availability of the property for various types of commercial use.

(The glass-studio proposal was from Avalon Glassworks; we checked with them and they’re no longer pursuing the idea.) To see the “community letter” with information on how to comment (May 18th deadline) on the plan to sell the station, go here. The city does not currently plan a public hearing/community meeting on the ex-fire station’s fate, but has left that open as an option if at some point it seems warranted. The Council is expected to take up the subject of the station’s future as soon as June.

20 Comments

  1. What about a great restaurant like the firehouse in Ballard that was turned into a Chow Foods chain restaurant?

    Comment by Genessee neighbor — 9:16 pm April 18, 2011 #

  2. That would be a cool daycare!

    Comment by Amanda — 9:43 pm April 18, 2011 #

  3. The Ballard fire station was in a commercial district, FS 37 is in a single family residence district – ergo the lack of commercial proposals.

    Comment by chas redmond — 9:49 pm April 18, 2011 #

  4. If it does get offered for sale as a private residence, then obviously the guy who had the fire truck parked on his lawn should buy it.

    Comment by ddd — 10:35 pm April 18, 2011 #

  5. I was also really hoping a restaurant would buy it. That would be perfect neighborhood location. Instant hit!

    Comment by kate — 10:41 pm April 18, 2011 #

  6. It may look good from the outside, but it is old on the inside. It even smells old. It was old inside 40 years ago when I used to visit my uncle who was a Captain at the time. Sell it and get whatever you can…

    Comment by marty — 11:25 pm April 18, 2011 #

  7. Sadly, the zoning restrictions will not allow for any commercial business in the space, including restaurants. It either has to be single family home or community organization.

    Comment by Stina — 7:59 am April 19, 2011 #

  8. I am hoping it will be turned into a Shelter for “Family Promise”. Perfect fit for this.

    Comment by Silly Goose — 8:53 am April 19, 2011 #

  9. Maybe it is time for a change of zoning on that corridor of 35th. It seems like the area has potential to make the neighboring residential streets much more walkable with the addition of restaurants and stores. The addition of Locol further to the south, that seems busy all the time, shows that the people of this area are willing and able to support businesses (and businesses without designated parking!!). This area already has churches, another fire station, and several other businesses. It seems like planners should be looking at this area as what it could be in the future instead of what it has been.

    Comment by wseattle — 8:56 am April 19, 2011 #

  10. Zoning changes all the time. Everything fronting 35th will be up-zoned before long. Meanwhile, a Variance could be applied for.

    Comment by wseadawg — 9:17 am April 19, 2011 #

  11. This would be a car-guy’s dream home – huge garage.

    Comment by margaritaville — 10:13 am April 19, 2011 #

  12. This property has been researched for paranormal happenings and featured on a TV program about such things. It is also typical that such phenomena increase when renovations take place. Wonder what will turn up there when it is developed for any purpose.

    Comment by T. Black — 10:27 am April 19, 2011 #

  13. T. Black: Do you know what show and about how long ago? I’d love to find that episode!

    Comment by Hoyne — 1:11 pm April 19, 2011 #

  14. I would love to have this as a residential home. The Garage area would make a great entertainment room, open the doors up and throw out the grill, have the guys over and watch the games. Guaranteed to have a kegorator in there for all.

    Comment by Matt F. — 1:25 pm April 19, 2011 #

  15. My kids and their cousins will miss visiting the firehouse. My grandmother lives four houses away on 35th (and has for fifty-plus years). I’d rather a community organization or a private residence in there than zone the whole street commercial!

    Comment by LeeAnn Balbirona — 2:33 pm April 19, 2011 #

  16. I read the info. from the city earlier this week – with the zoning, there is no viable commercial use at this time and since it has landmark status, it is recommended as single family residential use only. In addition, the potential for remodeling is restricted by landmark status rules. They also will not publish a listing price until 30 days before it hits the market.
    I thought it would be a great little micro-brewery, but it would be a really unique house! I’ll be curious as to the listing price.

    Comment by Todd — 3:11 pm April 19, 2011 #

  17. My mother (who grew up in the house half a block down on 35th in the 1940s-1960s) says this building was once a home with attached beauty shop before it was a fire station. “There used to be a beauty salon in that building and sometimes the beauty parlor owner would pay me to pick up errant hairpins and bobby pins that had fallen on the floor. I got my first perm there…it was located on the south side of the building, and I think the owner of the salon also owned and lived in the house which morphed into a fire station.”

    Comment by LeeAnn Balbirona — 9:01 pm April 19, 2011 #

  18. @LeeAnn That’s really interesting. I always thought it was purpose-built as a fire station! It would be great to have a coffee shop or restaurant in there, so the WS community can continue to enjoy the building rather than have it for a single family’s exclusive use.

    Comment by Brontosaurus — 10:47 pm April 19, 2011 #

  19. It would be a perfect spot to become the home of the Seafair Pirates and they have a fire truck that would lokk real good in the bays and keep with the landmark designation.

    Comment by Mark — 10:25 am April 20, 2011 #

  20. LeeAnn, is it possible your mother is mistaken? The city has owned the property since 1925, when the fire station was built.

    Comment by KBear — 12:41 pm April 20, 2011 #

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