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Originally published October 7, 2011 at 10:01 PM | Page modified October 10, 2011 at 2:52 PM

Fire sale: Seattle plans to sell two old stations

Two historic Seattle fire stations are being put up for sale by the city, and there appears to be a lot of interest. But their unique configurations may pose a problem for some potential buyers.

Special to The Seattle Times

Former Fire Station 38

Address: 5503 33rd Ave. N.E. (sits directly across Calvary Cemetery in the Ravenna/Bryant neighborhood)

Built: 1930

Noteworthy: The 2,500-square-foot structure has a stucco exterior and is zoned for low-rise residential multifamily buildings, such as cottages, row houses, and town homes. Home businesses including child care and bed-and-breakfasts are also allowed, but subject to certain conditions.

Assessed value: $1,074,200 (2011)

Estimated market value: $850,000

Former Fire Station 37

Address: 7300 35th Avenue S.W. (in West Seattle)

Built: 1925

Noteworthy: The Mission Revival-styled stucco structure is zoned for single-family use. That means home businesses, including child-care facilities and bed-and-breakfasts are allowed, along with other public facilities that may be permitted under certain conditions.

Assessed value: $289,200 (2011)

Estimated market value: $280,000

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If you've ever dreamed of owning a piece of local history, you may soon get your chance.

The Seattle City Council last month approved the sale of two vintage fire houses: former Fire Station 37 in West Seattle and former Fire Station 38 set in the Ravenna/Bryant neighborhood.

The properties will be sold through an open-bid process with the proceeds going to the fire levy fund.

"We'll be going out to the public with a goal of casting a wide net for potential buyers," says Louis Webster, real property agent for the city of Seattle.

The city is advertising now for a broker familiar with the historical-designation process and plans to start marketing the property late this year or early next.

Because the buildings were designed for the specific purpose of housing firefighters and their equipment, their mazelike configurations could be problematic for potential buyers.

Former Fire Station 38, for example, is divvied up into lots of funky spaces, including a single-engine apparatus room in main room of the building, a hose tower and a decontamination room which doubled as a laundry room, a kitchen, where a handball court stood originally, and crew quarters.

What's more, the historic-landmark designation means that a new owner will have to consult the city's Landmark Preservation Board before making changes to architectural features on the front exterior of the structures, such as alterations to the gabled roofs and arched transom windows on former Fire Station 37 or modifications to the multipaned industrial steel sash windows on former Station 38.

In other words, "You can't say you're going to paint your house purple," says Hillary Hamilton, a real-estate manager with the city.

Another possible sticking point could be accurately pricing the properties to reflect comparable properties in the neighborhood and determining the value of the stations' historical designation, says Richard Gholaghong, another property agent for the city.

In recent years, residential conversions of fire stations have generated interest in major cities throughout the U.S., including San Francisco and Chicago. In New York City, Staten Island resident Anthony Abbate touts a 12-car garage and a splendid view of the New York Harbor, according to The New York Times.

Locally, former Fire Station 25, at 1400 Harvard Ave. on Capitol Hill, is an example of historic rehabilitation marrying adaptive economic reuse. Originally designed for horse-drawn engines, Seattle's first brick firehouse has been the site for 16 town houses since 1980. Other decommissioned local firehouses are now operating in a range of capacities, such as a nonprofit public health clinic, a restaurant and a private home.

So far, the city says there's been strong interest in both properties. "We've had several informal, unsolicited offers, ranging from single-family residential use to commercial ventures," says Hamilton.

One of those unsolicited offers came from John Fromel, owner of the Leading Tone music shop.

"We are busting at the seams, and we've been eyeing the former Fire Station 38, as a perfect building for our business," says Fromel. "We genuinely want to be an asset to the area."

He'll be getting competition from the Northwest Puppet Center. Dmitri Carter, executive director and puppeteer with the center and Carter Family Marionettes, is also eying Station 38 as more space for his puppet outlet.

"We are confident that the building would suit our needs without any substantial changes," says Carter.

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