Duluth's Historic Park Point Fire Hall is Going Once... Going Twice...

By KBJR News 1

November 26, 2012 Updated Nov 27, 2012 at 11:20 AM CDT

Duluth, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - Park Point resident Bill Shipley looks at Fire Hall N0. 5 every day from his home across the street, and admits he's a fan of the building.

But he also calls himself a realist, and says he recognizes the tender loving care the station has needed for some time, mainly to the exterior.

"When there's a strong storm, there are pieces of it that fly off, and I pick them up. And the windows—I don't know how they managed in the winter in those years with the firemen in there," says Shipley, standing outside of the abandoned structure.

Shipley says he even offered to give the building a touch–up of his own.

"I offered to paint it and scrape it when I first moved here as a volunteer—on my own money. But, the city, of course, refused to let me do that because there were liability issues, and so on," says Shipley.

The near–century old structure, built in 1930, had been an active fire station for the island until this July, when the typically single–manned station was closed for inadequate staffing.

Now, $175,000 will be the minimum bid to own the land, and—abiding with zoned R–1 residential code to conform to the neighborhood—determine its fate.

Duluth's chief administrative officer, David Montgomery, says putting the property back on private tax rolls would be a win–win situation for the city.

"You'd have a continuous stream... of income from that residence... at the city level, the county level, and the school district. It's going to be a much better looking structure than what's there today, whether it's replaced or rehabbed. That structure is now going to be an additive value to that neighborhood," says Montgomery.

But Third District City Councilor Sharla Gardner, who represents Park Point, says the city shouldn't be so ready to sell its heritage, especially without consulting the neighbors.

"This is city property, and as such, it's public property—it belongs to the people of the city of Duluth. They should've at least consulted me, got the heritage commission involved, [and] talked to the neighborhood to see what the neighbors wanted to do," says Gardner.

And what are the neighbors saying? According to Shipley, perhaps Duluth's ever–growing art scene could offer an option.

"How about an art gallery—the Old Firehouse Art Gallery? It would make a great studio," says Shipley, admitting his own artistic background was an influence in his thought process. Shipley also says a Bed and Breakfast would be great.

...weighing the options before this piece of history goes on the auction block.

And what is the Duluth Fire Department saying?

According to officials, they say this is a decision best left in the hands of the city.

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