In the past week, the city has indicated their intentions to purchase property currently owned by Fidelity National Financial along Riverside Avenue in Jacksonville’s Brooklyn neighborhood.
Much of that property is vacant, but one building does sit on the site: the Old Fire Station No. 5 building.
The former fire station was built in 1910 and served the Riverside neighborhood for almost 100 years. It closed in 2008 and survived a relocation to its current spot at the corner of Forest Street and Riverside Avenue.
But now, with the city looking to make the property available for redevelopment as soon as possible, the historic building’s days could be limited. The building is not designated as a historic landmark and is therefore likely to be demolished.
City officials have indicated that, if a developer expresses interest in moving the building again to a different site, they’d be willing to accommodate that. But it’s also clear that the clock is ticking, and time is limited to save the Old Fire Station No. 5 building.
So while that clock keeps ticking, here are a few suggestions that we hope a local developer will find appealing enough to be inspired to lead the drive to save one of the city’s oldest remaining fire station buildings.
AN UPSCALE RESTAURANT
Can a dilapidated historical property that’s been neglected for years really have a chance at becoming an upscale restaurant?
Not only is it possible,
The historic building could be converted into a high-concept eatery that makes use of its history as a fire station to elevate the dining experience. And assuming the building stays nearby, it would fill in a fine-dining gap left by the closures of Hobnob and Sbraga & Co. within Unity Plaza – without being plagued by the accessibility and visibility issues that killed those two eateries.
The Jacksonville Fire Museum, founded in 1982, has been closed for renovations for the past several years.
Its building, another former fire station that was moved once before, sits within Metropolitan Park – meaning it, too, will eventually be looking for a new home if Jaguars owner Shad Khan’s grand vision for the Shipyards and Met Park is to be realized.
Why not find a property large enough for both buildings and combine them to create an even better museum? The Old Fire Station No. 5 building would be a great hub for knowledge and history regarding the city’s fire department, and combining the structures might allow for the demolition of some of the weaker parts of the original museum building.
Unfortunately, given that this would likely have to be a city-funded project rather than a private one, this solution isn’t particularly likely to happen.
EVENT / FLEX SPACE
A potential developer for the Old Fire Station No. 5 building could convert the space into an event space with historic charm, much like what’s been done with the 1st & Main building in Springfield.
Brick & Beam recently opened in that property, providing upscale flex space that
And in the Riverside and Brooklyn neighborhoods, there aren’t a whole lot of small-to-medium sized event or flex spaces available – and none would be able to boast the historic appeal of a former neighborhood fire station.
Moving the building to a new lot could be a blessing in disguise, potentially allowing the event space to be extended via patio or green space.
MIXED-USE COMMERCIAL BUILDING
The two-story Fire Station No. 5 building doesn’t even necessarily have to serve just one purpose.
The aforementioned Brick & Beam also lends its second floor to Smith Brothers Plastering, providing them with a surprisingly spacious open-floor setup.
A developer could easily use the ground floor – and perhaps even the rooftop – for a restaurant or bar concept, then lease out the second floor for a variety of purposes: office space, small lofts, or really anything that fits in the space.
Finding multiple uses for the historic building will probably provide the most plausible path forward for any potential developer to save it, as it allows them to potentially recover some of their costs.