The Times West Virginian

Local News

June 12, 2014

Older downtown buildings are development-ready: PHOTOS

FAIRMONT — People took a closer look at the old fire station and several other development-ready buildings in downtown Fairmont Wednesday as part of Main Street Fairmont’s Downtown Developers’ Tour.

The two-day event, based at the Gatherings at 216 Monroe St., continues today.

As part of the activities, participants split up into groups Wednesday and traveled to different structures within the city’s historic district for guided tours. In addition to the old firehouse, the facilities available to tour included the Spadafore, Dunbar School, the old Cook Hospital, the Masonic Temple, Hatter Ben’s, the Deveny building, the YMCA and the Jacob Hutchinson building.

Attendees were given a guidebook with information about these buildings and photographs as they were yesterday and stand today, as well as renderings of potential plans for the future. Besides the structures included on the tour, the booklet — created through a partnership between The Thrasher Group, Main Street Fairmont and the City of Fairmont Planning Department — also features the City Center building.

After the tour, individuals had the chance to chat with local officials from the city and county to get further details and ask more questions about the facilities that interested them.

Fairmont City Planner Kathy Wyrosdick led the tours of the old fire station on Monroe Street.

According to the guidebook, this three-story building, constructed in 1912, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was the home of the fire department, offices and retail in the past, and was most recently used for storage. Officials would like to see the venue become a home of the arts and entertainment in the future.

“It’s a great building,” Wyrosdick said.

She explained that the the old firehouse is actually two buildings, which were built within five years of each other because the city ran out of money. The City of Fairmont occupied the structure from the time it was built up until about a year ago.

The entire building was created for municipal service and housed the central fire station, police department, the detective unit, municipal court and all city administrative offices. In the ’80s, the administrative and finance functions were moved to the newly built city-county building, and then the Public Safety Building was constructed, Wyrosdick said.

The last department to be housed at the old firehouse was the street department, which is now located in the new Public Works Building on Minor Avenue, she said. The former fire station is currently used for some storage and during Main Street Fairmont’s Feast of the Seven Fishes Festival each December.

The building is interesting because of all the different levels that create valuable spaces and could be considered for redevelopment, Wyrosdick said.

Main Street Fairmont recently received a grant through the West Virginia Redevelopment Collaborative for technical assistance and work on reuse plans for this historic, vacant building, and the City of Fairmont is supporting the project. The West Virginia Redevelopment Collaborative is a program of the Northern West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center, which is housed in the West Virginia Water Research Institute at West Virginia University’s National Research Center for Coal and Energy.

Wyrosdick said the group, which includes architecture and business experts and other professionals, has been focusing on redeveloping the building into an artists’ collaborative for music and theater.

“We have real tenants, which is very unusual in redevelopment projects,” she said. “Usually we have the idea and then we try to find the tenants, but actually we have tenants as part of that group coming together.”

For instance, Allegheny Image Factory is interested in using a space off Cleveland Avenue within the building as a shooting-and-production room for films, and a theater group is interested in a portion of the structure on the main floor. The second floor is being considered for an artists’ studio space or a place to house AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers, and the third floor could be a music collaborative and a location for providing educational instruction, Wyrosdick said.

She commented that the roof of the old firehouse is in bad shape, which is typical of these old buildings. The parties have applied for a development grant through the State Historic Preservation Office to replace the roof.

The goal is to keep the historic character of the building during any of this redevelopment, she said.

Email Jessica Borders at jborders@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @JBordersTWV.

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