Coupeville accepting bids on Fire Hall

The July 8 deadline is approaching for bids on Coupeville’s “Old Fire Hall,” a small, two-story historic structure located on Alexander Street near downtown that the town council decided to sell at the beginning of the year.

According to Larry Cort, town planner, the council is looking for a rehabilitation proposal “that will contribute in some way to the character of downtown,” perhaps as a retail use but not necessarily. No offers for demolition are being accepted.

“The council has really wide discretion in this,” Cort said last week. “They don’t have to take the highest bid.” Cort added that the proposed use “could be a real creative one,” assuming it complies with the specific terms of the resolution.

So far, the property has not been surplussed; the town is only accepting offers that would rehab the property as a historic structure. Cort said already he has given tours of the building to about a dozen people “interested enough to want to look inside, to see if something could be done with the building.”

After the July 8 deadline, the council will review all the bids received, and if they determine one of them is to their liking, they will then declare the building as surplus city property and move along with selling it.

First built in 1937, the Fire Hall has been unoccupied for some time, serving now as a storage facility for inactive documents and miscellaneous items. It is a small building, about 1,400 square feet in total space, constructed of masonry clad in stucco. Two additions have been made over time; the first a one-story wood frame door on the south side, and the second a pair of public restrooms, approximately 40-by-8 feet, on the north side.

Sometime in the 1960s, the structure was modified in its conversion to the Island County Historical Museum, with windows and doors replacing the original bay doors.

These features are inconsistent with historical preservation practices, and restoration to a historical structure will involve removing them. The museum later moved to a new building.

A report prepared for the town in spring of 2000 found that the Fire Hall was showing signs of deterioration and structural inadequacies, and that it “appears to be minimally adequate to support occupation.”

Also, the roof leaks, though it remains structurally intact. The floors and walls were found to be in good shape, though the overall ability of the structure to resist high winds or an earthquake were brought into question.

The report suggested the construction of lateral load-bearing shear walls as well as other modifications to bring the fire hall up to modern code. Total rehab costs for improving the building while maintaining its present character were estimated at between $190,000 and $200,000, which Cort said was “more than the council wanted to take on” at this time.

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