Highest Bid on Chambers Street Firehouse Is Less Than Half of Its Appraised Value

November 11, 1992

Highest Bid on Chambers Street Firehouse Is Less Than Half of Its Appraised Value

By Myrna K. Bearse

A half million dollars was the highest bid at last Thursday night’s firehouse auction at Borough Hall. This is considerably less than what the Borough and Township had hoped would be offered for the Chambers Street firehouse, and far less than the building’s most recent appraisal of $1.2 million.

The bid was made by Rysia de Ravel of Lawrenceville, a Polish-born Canadian citizen who holds a degree from Harvard Business School. She said she might relocate her New York City-based conference call business to the firehouse. She also opened the possibility that she might lease space to a restaurant.

It is now up to Borough Council and Township Committee to decide whether to accept Ms. de Ravel’s bid, and this deci-sion may come next week.

Borough Mayor Marvin Reed said he will talk with Township Mayor Dick Woodbridge this week to find out whether May-or Woodbridge would like Borough Attorney Michael Herbert and firehouse auctioneer Joseph Zidek to appear at this Monday night’s Township Committee meeting, or whether he would prefer that a joint meeting with Borough Council be held Tuesday night.

Only Four Bidders

There were only four bidders last Thursday night, and the bidding went slowly. The auctioneer was late in arriving from Long Island, so Mr. Zidek took over. The bidding began at $250,000 and often rose only in increments of $10,000.

Responding to a published comment by Ms. de Ravel that she had earlier offered the Borough a million dollars for the red brick structure, Mayor Reed said she had never talk-ed to anyone in an official position. He added that, if she had, she would have been told that the Borough, by State statute, was allowed to sell the building only at public auction.

The circa-1930s building comprises about 8,800 square feet of space over three levels. The basement level contains a working fireplace; the grade level consists of the bay area that used to house the fire trucks, along with a kitchen in the rear; and the top floor is a free-span vaulted ceiling room with windows on all sides.

If Ms. de Ravel’s bid is rejected, the firehouse will again be placed on the auction block, said Mayor Reed.

The two municipalities were hoping the building would sell for a higher price in order to offset the $1.8 million cost of the new Witherspoon Street fire-house. “The more money we get [for the Chambers Street firehouse], the better for the future tax rate in the Borough and Township,” said Mayor Reed.

There had been much talk over the past year about the possibility of a restaurant mov-ing into the old firehouse. In fact, the Borough recently changed a zoning law to permit a restaurant to come into the firehouse — and into buildings on similar-sized lots — without the need either to provide park-ing spaces or to obtain a parking variance.

Mr. Reed said that potential restaurateurs might have been concerned about the need for an easement for fire exiting purposes, as well as similar easements to permit delivery and trash removal from the rear of the building.

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