Firehouse goes on the block Thursday

November 11, 1992 (~estimated)

Firehouse goes on the block Thursday

By Laurie Lynn Strasser

Staff Writer

The commercial version of a handyman’s special, the 60-year-old Chambers Street firehouse will sell to the highest of at least five bidders Thursday.

Banners across the brick facade of the three-story, 8,800-square-foot fire station announce that it will go on the block Nov. 12 at 7 p.m. in Borough Hall.

The borough assessor initially estimated the property’s value -at $1.3 million, borough Mayor Marvin Reed said in July, but it could be worth $200,000 more or less than that amount in today’s market, he said.

Proceeds from the transaction will pay for construction of the Witherspoon Street firehouse. Mercer Engine Co. No. 3 moved there in October from the Chambers Street station.

Although, no minimum price has been declared,, a starting bid will be set by the auctioneer the day of the sale, said Joe Zidek, auction division manager of Coldwell Banker Schlott. The Wayne-based firm will receive a 5 percent cut of the sale price for its marketing services.

“It’s been a difficult sale, more difficult than most,” he said. “It’s definitely not a turn-key building. The building — to be used for any use other than the firehouse — is going to require an extensive amount of work.”

Most prospective purchasers aim to convert the fire station into a restaurant, though not all are restaurateurs, he said.

“Some have construction back-grounds or they’re investors,” he said. “They want to do the building as a restaurant and then either sell or lease it to a restaurateur.”

Believing such a use would bring top dollar, the Borough Council in September made the 3,000-square-foot lot more attractive as a restaurant site by changing zoning restrictions for food and drink establishments on undersized lots. Buyers now can convert the aging firehouse to a restaurant without providing off-street parking.

The property has been advertised in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and other, more locally oriented publications, Mr. Zidek said. Coldwell Banker also target-mailed restaurants in the tri-state area and distributed color brochures to brokers.

The interior doesn’t have a pole, but is loaded with charm, according to the glossy brochure — from the “working fireplace” in the basement to the “free span vaulted ceiling” and “windows on all sides” of the top floor.

The station “cries out for re-habilitation,” the brochure says, listing among its more functional assets a new roof and furnace, and a kitchen behind the street-level park-ing bays.

As of last week, Borough Administrator Thomas Shannon said, five bidders had registered to participate in the bidding contest after touring the site.

“Invariably with an auction, the interest picks up as the date comes closer,” Mr. Zidek said. “The registration cut-off is the day of the sale itself and we are still receiving registrations.”

While inquiries have originated from New York and Philadelphia, Mr. Zidek said, “The most interest is coming from the greater Prince-ton area. It’s not unusual because people who are familiar with the area recognize the potential and the desirability of the location. They don’t have to be sold on Prince-ton.”

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