No bidders for Melba Street Firehouse

The auctioneer was there; the mayor was there; some curious residents were there, but no one showed up to bid on the old Melba Street firehouse, which was to be auctioned Saturday at noon.

A couple of people who toured the old Station 6 Firehouse said they thought the starting bid of $477,000 was a bit high and it kept them from entertaining any serious thoughts about bidding.

Mike Papper, who lives in the condominiums next door to the firehouse, said he could have pictured the building housing a small brewery, with offices and living space upstairs.

He would have considered bidding, “if the price was right,” and for him that might have been somewhere in the two hundred thousands, especially if he was looking at the firehouse for an investment property.

David Kuehn looked around the building too, really out of curiosity because he lives in the old Spring Street Firehouse in Devon, which he bought at a city auction about 10 years ago.

The starting bid on that property was lower, and he got it for $160,000. Then he put in a kitchen and bathroom and turned it into a house.

With 2,000 square feet, it’s spacious, and that’s what he likes about living in an old converted firehouse. “It’s big, it has high ceilings and big rooms,” Kuehn said. “And I like the fact that it was a firehouse.”

The Melba Street firehouse would need a lot of work, he said, to turn it into a home or business, and that’s why he thinks the starting bid should have been lower.

Still, he liked the space and the structure.

“I’d hate to see someone buy it and knock it down,” he said.

Mayor Ben Blake said the city assessor set the starting bid based on the market value of the building and property.

“But the market dictates the sale,” Blake said, “and this was a little steeper than the market would bear.”

The Board of Aldermen will have to determine the next step. Blake said the board might consider switching the sale from an auction to a sealed bid process, with a lower starting bid.

Fire Chief Douglas Edo was at the firehouse Saturday morning for the scheduled auction, and he said he didn’t have any wish to buy the building.

He joked with the mayor, saying, “Maybe we should put a fire truck inside” to attract buyers.

Looking at a fireman who was standing next to Edo, Blake grinned and joked back, “Or how about a fireman.”