Buyer sought for Roosevelt Road firehouse
03/09/2010 4:41 PM
The City of Chicago is seeking a buyer for an empty fire station at
Built in 1873, the structure has been empty since the summer of 2008, when the fire department's Engine Company 18 moved out of the building and into a new, modern station at 1360 S. Blue Island.
A Department of Community Development staff report says the city will seek $300,000 for the 5,500 square foot structure. A request for proposals that will be released March 15 states a preference for a new commercial or mixed-use development in the empty station.
The community development staff report says that the city will "only consider proposals that propose adaptive reuse of the existing building." Maintaining the building's front facade is "encouraged." The current facade has been in place since 1916.
The Fire Museum of Greater Chicago had hoped to gain control of the building after Engine Company 18 moved out two years ago, a representative told Chicago Journal then. Here's that full story, from the Aug. 20, 2008 edition of the paper:
Old Engine 18 building future unknown
Group claims verbal agreement, hopes to bypass city council
By MICAH MAIDENBERG
The vice president of a museum that commemorates firefighters claimed the newly-vacant old Engine 18 fire station has been promised to his organization. But the person who supposedly made the promise denies the claim. And the alderman whose ward contains the fire station said no one has been promised anything.
Frank McMenamin, vice president of the Fire Museum of Greater Chicago, said he received a handshake and verbal commitment from Ray Orozco, head of the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communication, at an Aug. 15 meeting.
"We of course do not take possession right away. It's been offered to us," McMenamin said. "We're going to accept it of course."
But Jennifer Martinez, Orozco’s spokesperson, said Orozco attended the Aug. 15 meeting in "a personal rather than professional capacity," and merely explained the process by which the museum can obtain the building. Martinez said she could not explain that process in detail.
McMenamin said the fire department would retain ownership of the building, which he believes could enable the museum to bypass city council.
"Whenever the fire department needs something—if they need pictures, whatever, we are where they go," McMenamin said. "We'll deal strictly with the fire department."
Larry Langford, a spokesperson for the fire department, said "we have no desire to continue to use" the building.
McMenanmin said avoiding city council is preferable because some aldermen may perceive his museum as "getting more" than a museum in another vacant firehouse that commemorates African-American firemen. That museum, located at 63rd and Harper, is notorious as the site of a 1990 retirement party at which white firefighters used racial slurs.
"All the aldermen, they’re worried the next guy’s getting more," McMenamin said. "We have an African-American firefighters museum. Half the city council is black—are the white guys getting more?"
But 2nd Ward Alderman Robert Fioretti, whose ward includes the old station, said any future use of the building would require vetting by aldermen. The site will soon be open to requests for proposals, Fioretti said, and no group will receive preferential treatment.
"I’m not in favor of giving away land when we're in the middle of a budget crisis, to any group, no matter what the 501(c)3 is or how worthy the cause may be," Fioretti said.
Fioretti said numerous entities are interested in the building—including developers and restaurant owners—but declined to name them. Fioretti did confirm that he twice spoke with the Fire Museum of Greater Chicago about the building.
But Fioretti also dismissed the idea that Orozco committed the building to the Fire Museum of Greater Chicago.
"They say things all the time," Fioretti said, referring to Orozco and Mayor Richard Daley. "It just doesn’t happen."