Monday, April 21, 2008

No one minds making Fire Station No. 4 a landmark?

Posted By on Mon, Apr 21, 2008 at 10:17 AM

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission wants to preserve a pre-World War II fire station in the Fourth Ward, but its consulting director said it ran into some powerful opposition.

Last week, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission’s consulting director Dan Morrill said the commission wants to designate Fire Station No. 4 a historical landmark, but temporarily tabled the idea after Bank of America voiced its disapproval to City Manager Curt Walton. The bank owns the building, which now houses a firefighting museum.

Bank of America spokeswoman Nicole Nastacie disputed that. “We’re not opposing any efforts that are underway for the [fire station] museum as a historical landmark,” Nastacie said.

Now, according to city spokeswoman Kim McMillan, the bank is “fine with moving forward with designation.”

“All I know is that they needed time to evaluate [it],” McMillan said. “It wasn’t ready to go in front of zoning this month, but will go next month.”

Fire Station No. 4 sits on prime real estate at 420 W. Fifth St. Built in 1925-1926, it shut down in 1972. It’s since been used several ways, including as housing for an art gallery and now, a firefighting museum. It’s among a shrinking number of older buildings left downtown in a city that some people complain doesn’t do enough to protect its history — a refrain frequently heard when businesses and restaurants like The Coffee Cup, Little Italy and Anderson’s were demolished.

Last fall, the Friends of the Fourth Ward asked the landmarks commission to consider several buildings in the ward for historic designation, Morrill said. The commission recently agreed the fire station had historic value worthy of preservation, and a Charlotte City Council hearing was scheduled April 21.

“Even though we had been in rather continuous contact with their real estate department, the leadership of the bank contacted the city manager [Curt Walton] and expressed their opposition to the prospect of designation,” Morrill said.

Morrill also said Walton suggested the commission table the idea until the commission, the city and the bank meet. “I’m awaiting word from the city manager as to when those meetings would happen.”

Asked why the landmarks commission would have believed the bank opposed the move, Nastacie said, “That I do not know. But the official response from the bank, all I can tell you [is] we’re not opposing it.”

Morrill, when told the bank’s response, said, “That’s great news if that’s the case. I think that’s terrific.”

He continued: “I heard yes, that they wanted to meet with us, and they had concerns about the designation. I’m not going to parse words. We anticipated they would come to our meeting and oppose designation.”

The station building is appraised for tax purposes at $109,300, and its land — almost a half-acre — is appraised at $1,041,100. If the fire station were designated an historical landmark, its property owner could apply for an automatic deferral of half its property tax.

But the property owner also would have restrictions on it. For instance, if Bank of America wanted to tear the building down, the landmark commission could delay the demolition for as much as a year.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission could only protect the building from demolition if it bought the building and inserted a protective covenant into any resale contract. Morrill said the commission has not discussed buying the building among itself or with the bank.

McMillan said the issue is now scheduled for discussion at a May 21 city council zoning committee meeting.

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