Second Street Fire Station

Photographed in May 2019, the century-old Second Street Fire Station, at the corner of Second Street and Perley’s Lane in Hallowell. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

HALLOWELL — Beginning this week, developers will likely be asked to submit ideas for what to do with the century-old Second Street Fire Station in Hallowell.

City officials are expected to go public with a request for proposals for “adaptive reuse” of the building, while preserving its historical character, which will likely be required by covenants.

City Manager Nate Rudy said a few changes to the request for proposals were made Wednesday at a meeting of the Property Committee, a subcommittee of the City Council. He said Thursday the goal of the proposal is to solicit as many plans as possible.

“Part of the goal is to raise awareness in the community about the opportunity,” Rudy said, adding many people outside Hallowell might not be aware of the property’s potential for development.

The request for proposals states preference will be given to plans that allow:

• The Hallowell Food Bank to remain in the bottom level of the building.

• The Hallowell Citizens’ Initiative Committee to create a museum with access to the hose tower.

The fire station was built in 1828 and served as the Town Hall until 1899, when the current City Hall was built. In 1900, the city’s Fire Department moved into the building, according to information from the city.

The hose tower burned in 1932, but was repaired. In 2018, the property was rehabilitated by E.J. Perry, which included installing a new foundation and straightening the building, which was tilting.

That cost of that work was covered by $220,000 in bond funds and $12,500 given by the city council to the Hallowell Citizens’ Initiative.

In 2013, the City Council signed a resolution stipulating it is in the city’s best interest the Second Street Fire Station be “maintained and preserved for the future, that any uses of the building are consistent with its historic value and that it remains under the care and supervision of the city of Hallowell, in accordance with principles widely shared by the people of Hallowell.“

Hallowell firefighters and Pinnacle Tree Service workers remove the sign from the old Second Street Fire Station in June 2018. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

The Second Street Fire Station has seen little use since 2018, when the Fire Department moved to a new headquarters at Stevens Commons. Second Street Fire Station now houses the Hallowell Food Bank, and is being used for city storage and as a makeshift studio for artist Chris Cart.

The building is within the city’s downtown tax increment financing district, or TIF, and is eligible to receive federal preservation and restoration grants because it is a part of the Hallowell Historic District, listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Malley Weber, owner of Hallowell Clay Works, said Thursday her group wants to use the Second Street Fire Station as an arts and cultural center, and will submit a proposal when the the city issues its request. That idea was first floated at a Jan. 27 public hearing.

“We’re still active and working towards creating a new proposal,” Weber said. “We’re dedicated to this because artists and the community need this now more than ever.”

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An initial proposal for the “Kennebec Craft and Cultural Center” states the project’s vision is “to create afford and secure rental locations for working artists and craftspeople to live, create or offer public workshops.”

The proposal stipulates Hallowell Clay Works, Weber’s Water Street business, would be an “anchor tenant” on the first floor, while the second floor would be an apartment.

According to the initial proposal, Malley’s proposed business would be run by a nonprofit and funded through rental income, private donors, personal investments, loans, grants and capital campaigns.

City councilors who were once supportive of moving the city’s Police Department into the Second Street Fire Station have cooled to the idea.

Rudy said the Hallowell Citizens’ Initial Committee and others area artists have expressed interest in the property. He said city councilors have told him some people are interested in using the old fire station for housing or a restaurant.

“I don’t know how strong those expressions of interest are,” Rudy said.

In May 2019, councilors approved $2,750 for a commercial appraisal of the former fire station by Gorham-based Maine Valuation Co.

That appraisal, received in December, showed the building to be worth $300,000.

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