The changeover would preserve a building with historic connections to the community and introduce a second craft brewery into Collingswood.
By Matt Skoufalos | September 9, 2021
Since the Collingswood Police and Fire Departments first discussed moving into a brand-new, purpose-built Haddon Avenue headquarters back in 2018, questions remained about the ultimate fates of their former homes.
The construction of the new Collingswood Public Safety building was undertaken to give both departments updated facilities from which to operate, largely because conditions at the prior sites had deteriorated so significantly.
The Collingswood Police Station, which has battled roof leaks, water intrusion, mold growth, flooding, and storage issues, is slated for demolition as part of a larger redevelopment push along Atlantic Avenue.
But the Collingswood Fire Station, despite its own concerns, is poised to find a second life that embraces its historic charm.
Former Collingswood Fire Chief John Amet, president of the volunteer Collingswood Fire Company, which owns the building, confirmed that the group is in talks to sell to new owners who would redevelop it as a microbrewery.
That creative re-use of the old building is in keeping with the wishes of its members, many of whom guested as bartenders during countless community events in its second-floor annex.
“I think it’d be great for the town,” Amet said. “It’s a big building; it’s right there downtown.
“The one thing I can guarantee you is that the fire company didn’t want it torn down, and that’s where the borough was leaning at one time,” he said. “You have guys that have well over 50 years of dedicated service there; it’s emotional to them. They’re attached to it, as we all are.”
That attachment runs more than 100 years deep, through generations of firefighters, some of whom also helped build the addition to the building at 20 West Collings Avenue.
As they retired from the volunteer service, their children stepped up to take the calls.
“What we used to do, it’s a tradition, really,” Amet said.
“Once you’re in there and you do it for a living, or as an unpaid professional, it means a lot to people.”
Selling that building “is like getting rid of your home,” he said.
Once the building is no longer in use as a fire station—which will come with the official opening of the new borough public safety building next month—the volunteer Fire Company will also determine its own future as an organization.
Amet estimates its membership at 30 people, but since none of them as individuals may retain any revenues from the sale of the property, the company as an entity will decide what to do with those funds.
Discussions have included pivoting to become a charitable organization that supports victims of fires or injured firefighters, or an entity dedicated to beautifying Collingswood. However, nothing’s been settled yet.
“We really haven’t breached that too heavily,” Amet said. “Nothing’s guaranteed until the sale of the property goes through.”
A spokesperson for the prospective buyers, who commented on condition of anonymity, said the former fire station is situated in a perfect location for a craft brewery.
“It’s right in the heart of town; we pass it all the time on the PATCO Speedline,” the spokesperson said.
“We want to tap into it, and try to bring what we know will work for Collingswood. We’re not just going to come in and knock this building down. We’ll keep the heritage of the town.”
In addition to significantly overhauling the facility to convert the old fire station into a production brewery, the prospective owners would plan to expand into the former fire hall.
“It’s something we can grow into and make people proud,” the spokesperson said.
So far, the framework of a deal is in place, including an agreement of sale, but major technical and financial aspects of the project remain to be sorted out.
Once those details are confirmed, the brewers will introduce themselves to the community.
“Collingswood has always been a great spot,” the spokesperson said.
“We know if we can get in there, it’s a great opportunity to bring another brewery to a town that already supports local businesses.
“We know the vibe, [we know] the atmosphere, and high-quality craft beer fits right in with that.”
Stick with NJ Pen for updates.
Please support NJ Pen with a subscription. Get e-mails, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, or try our Direct Dispatch text alerts.