Cedar Rapids to finalize sale of fire house to Coe College

Building to be used for student housing

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UPDATE: Coe College students could be living in a fire house a year from now.

The City Council this week will finalize a development agreement with Coe to permit the college to purchase the city’s district fire house at 1424 B Ave. NE next to the Coe campus, on a block now mostly owned by the college.

The agreement calls for the college to pay $290,000 for the property, which is $10,000 more than the appraised value, according to the city.

The fire station, built in 1925, won’t be needed by the city after the new Central Fire Station at 713 First Ave. SE is opened in upcoming weeks.

Only Coe responded to a City Hall request late last year for proposals to buy the B Avenue NE fire house, a property that local historic preservationists have wanted to see saved and reused.

Rod Pritchard, Coe’s director of marketing and public relations, on Monday said Coe anticipates taking ownership of the fire house by April 1, which will give the college time to renovate it into residential units for upperclassmen before the 2014 school year if the school needs the residential space.

Pritchard said the existing firefighter residential quarters on the building’s second floor will be easy to convert into living area for about 12 students. More extensive renovation of the building’s garage area could provide residential space for another 18 or so students, he said.

Pritchard has said he anticipated that the former fire house on the edge of campus will be an attractive residential option for students.

The development agreement between the city and the college calls for the parties to discuss the disposition of the building should the time come when Coe contemplates demolishing the property. Those discussions will include options to seek proposals to move the building, to salvage historic building materials and to prepare a report on the historic nature of the structure.

Pritchard said the college has no plans to demolish the building, but he added that the agreement with the city provides flexibility. should a subsequent college administration years from now concludes that the building has worn out or is no longer needed.

“Coe has been here 160 years, and we anticipate preserving that building into the future,” Pritchard said. “But we cannot speak to what future administrations or what this college might look like 50 or 100 or 150 years from now. … It’s not good from a planning perspective to lock ourself to that facility in perpetuity because every facility wears out. …But we certainly believe we will be using that fire station for residential housing for the foreseeable future.”

The city consulted with representatives of the Mound View Neighborhood Association, the Uptown District and Save CR Heritage about the future of the B Avenue NE fire station.

The city is building a new west-side district fire station to serve the area served in the past by the former central station, at 222 Third St. NW, which was ruined in the 2008 flood.

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