A new ownership group is open to suggestions for re-use of the historic property.
By Matt Skoufalos | January 4, 2023
After a few cloudy years, the future of the historic Collingswood Firehouse looks somewhat clearer.
The building, which once housed the borough fire service, has been sold to a new ownership group that plans to redevelop it into a commercial property more in keeping with its surrounding context in the borough downtown.
A group of buyers led by Ryan Hughes of Cinnaminson closed on the property this week in a $650,000 transaction that allows its former owners to pursue charitable endeavors with the returns, while also relieving them of the looming tax liability of the building.
Use of the firehouse as an active fire station was discontinued after the borough fire department opened in the new Collingswood public safety building in 2021. But the building itself remained the property of Collingswood Fire Company No. 1, a group comprising former, local volunteer firefighters.
Since it was no longer functioning as a firehouse, however, the borough government began assessing property taxes on the site. Without a revenue source to pay them, Collingswood Fire Company No. 1 began exploring its options.
The group searched for new buyers, including one group that planned to construct a brewery there; when that deal collapsed, other plans were hatched, including an arrangement to garage antique fire apparatus onsite.
The building was put up for sale again late last year. It lasted all of two weeks on the market before Hughes’ group struck a deal for the property. The new owners plan to take some time to consider how best to redevelop it.
“We’re in the very, very beginning stages of everything,” Hughes said. “We want to come in, we want to be a positive presence, and we want to be there a long time.
“It’s an awesome building,” he said.
“It’s a matter of figuring out what we can do with it.”
Without committing to any specific plans at the outset, Hughes said the new owners — a four-person group that consists of skilled tradesmen, a builder, and a financier — want to hold talks with the borough government to discuss what uses might be best for the surrounding neighborhood.
“We want to see what’s going to be the best use for the town,” he said.
“Do they want retail? Do they want a restaurant?
“It’s going to depend on who wants the space.”
Collingswood Mayor Jim Maley told NJ Pen in late 2023 that the borough government plans to submit requests for proposals (RFPs) for the broader redevelopment of the North Atlantic Avenue site nearby. Any specific plans for the firehouse likely would benefit from those improvements as well.
Importantly, the new owners are committed to addressing whatever environmental issues may have persisted at the site, which were both underlying reasons for the borough fire service moving out, and the key stumbling block to the brewery deal.
Although the new owners are not locked into the idea of building a brewery there, Hughes said his group “would 100-percent be open” to the idea.
“We’re not brewers by any stretch, but we would be open to it as long as the town’s open to it,” he said. “Personally, I think it’s a nice location for something like that.”
What most matters to the group is restoring some of the key architectural features of the building to their former glory in its next life. Hughes said the partners are keenly aware of the historical significance of the property, and the important role it has played in the borough fire service.
“It’s 100 years of people being through the place,” he said. “When we walked in, we could feel it. We definitely want to respect what those guys have done.
“We’re looking to add something positive,” Hughes said. “The look of the building is going to stay exactly how it is. It’s a fire station; there’s no intentions of turning it into something it’s not.
“When it’s brought back, it’s going to pop, and it’s going to bring some life to that block,” he said. “It’s something that we’re looking forward to doing.”
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