Fire Station 2 site may become hot property

As fire department prepares to leave, Shumway residents hope for gathering place

By Troy Brynelson, Columbian staff writer

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A fire station at the corner of Main and 37th streets could be up for sale this year, putting up for grabs some prime Vancouver real estate.

What it will become though is anybody’s guess.

“Something the community can use. We’ll be walking a lot more than driving — that’s one of the reasons we picked this neighborhood,” said Stephen Coble, 70, who lives a block away in the Shumway neighborhood.

“I would actually like to see it become a cafe,” said Sam Arslanian, 10, another Shumway neighbor. His father, Aram, wondered aloud if it could become a good lunch and breakfast spot.

“I’d like to see it become a place you could get a good sandwich,” he said.

These are a few of the ideas floating around the fate of Vancouver Fire Department’s Fire Station 2. The property, at 400 E. 37th St., is expected to put up for sale in December.

City spokeswoman Carol Bua said in an email to The Columbian that the city will sell Fire Station 1 and 2 and use the proceeds to pay back the costs of building their replacements, which are currently under construction. Fire Station 1 is at 900 W. Evergreen Blvd., a few blocks west of downtown Vancouver.

The city declared the two properties as surplus in March 2015, after a study recommended that it should move two stations for faster citywide response times. The two new stations are on Fourth Plain Boulevard; one on Main Street and the other on Norris Road.

John Caton, president of the Shumway Neighborhood Association, said he and other residents have barely talked about their hopes for the station. But they are certainly affected by its fate, he said.

“I think the neighborhood, at least what feedback I’ve had, would like to see the building be there and be utilized,” he said.

The prevailing thoughts are that it could make for a restaurant of some sort, a community center or a museum. The latter two ideas could require the community to organize and raise funds; but any private business interested in turning it into a restaurant would likely face costs to retrofit the building with, for example, a commercial kitchen, said city councilor and Shumway resident Anne McEnerny-Ogle.

“I know the building has some issues. It’s an old house,” she said. “But if there was any way possible, I would like to see a group come together and have the community come together to keep it and turn it into a small museum.”

According to McEnerny-Ogle, the fire department has several pieces of historic equipment and items that are tucked away with no real place to put them. Preserving them would benefit the community, she said.

“As any museum is, the story of the past is the story of the future,” she said. “It helps educate the population about how difficult (firefighting) was, how difficult it still is and what the future is for firefighting.”

Jim Martin, a retired biologist and teacher who has worked with nonprofits since the late 1970s, said he hoped to see it be a hub of community art and music. Such projects take months, sometimes years of planning, he said.

“It does take a lot of effort up front. To me, it would be worth having an event where people who are interested come and just discuss it,” he said.

Fire Station 2 is 2,965 square feet in size and sits on a 13,000-square-foot property. Its market value was assessed at $430,500 in January 2016, according to Clark County property records.