Dueling Proposals For Bank Street Fire Station Property

By: William F. Galvin

Topics: Infrastructure , Conservation , Municipal Finance

The town received two requests for proposals for the sale of the 203 Bank St. property, which includes the town’s first fire station.  AERIAL PHOTO BY STEVE FURLONG

HARWICH – The town received two proposals for purchase of the former fire station property and surrounding parcels at 203 Bank St. As expected, a joint proposal was filed by the Harwich Conservation Trust and Harwich Fire Association, and Leo Cakounes, trustee of Olga Realty Trust, also submitted a proposal.

The HCT-HFA proposal proposes a $300,000 purchase price, while the Cakounes proposal came in at $330,000. An appraisal conducted on behalf of the town set a market value for the property at $467,000. The property consists of four lots totaling 2.06 acres, including wetlands, and contains the town’s first fire station. The 6,700-square-foot station was constructed in 1929.

Both proposals include preserving and restoring the old station, and Cakounes includes the possibility of adding apartments to the second floor.

“Rarely do two local, recognized, highly visible nonprofit entities come together to create a vision that meets the town’s criteria so perfectly, to enhance public access, incorporate both the history and culture of Harwich...with full appropriations to create a seamless, cash transaction,” reads the cover letter in the HCT-HFA’s proposal.

The proposal will yield much in terms of eco-tourism while becoming a destination for public safety aficionados, furthering Harwich’s reputation as a place to visit, to live and to work, according to the proposal. The property deserves to be preserved, both the historic fire station and the unencumbered access to exceptional walking and hiking trails, the organizations wrote.

The proposal calls for the HFA to restore the historic features of the town’s first fire station, which is nearing its 100 year anniversary, and create a museum to house the town’s first motorized fire engine and other memorable mementos of the town’s public safety history.

The HCT would continue to enhance public walking trail access to the trust’s 66-acre Robert F. Smith Cold Brook Preserve, which abuts the 203 Bank St. property. Parking is sorely needed for the preserve, and the trust has plans for major Americans with Disability Act improvements to trails and walkways along a half-mile stretch in the preserve.

Cakounes said on Friday his plan is to renovate the front part of the building, maintaining its historic features as a fire station. “We plan to align ourselves with an organization that wants to preserve the firehouse status and possibly display and provide storage of antique fire apparatus,” Cakounes said.

Noting the need for affordable housing, Cakounes proposed one or possibly two apartments for the second floor of the station. Other space on the second floor could be used as a possible meeting room and training center. 

The Olga Realty Trust is aware of the pending agreement with the town for use of the parking lot for access to the Harwich Conservation Trust’s adjoining property, according to the proposal.

“It is our intention to address that issue and possibly come to an agreement to continue use by the Harwich Conservation Trust,” the RFP states.

Cakounes said he is aware the property is located in a residential area, and he thinks a blend of historic use and rental units would not be detrimental to the neighborhood. Given the time he had to respond to the RFP, Cakounes said, he did not get into details for use of the property in depth.

“I didn’t want to see it not sell, or go for $50,000 either,” Cakounes said of his decision to submit the proposal. 

Both respondents are proposing to pay for the property with cash.

Town administration will weigh the advantages of each of the proposals and develop a recommendation to the selectmen.