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Decatur council approves plans for former Fire Station 3

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The city of Decatur is seeking proposals for the purchase of the former Fire Station 3 near Fairview Park. Anyone interested in the property will be asked to provide information about their plans for the property.

DECATUR — Less than a month after reopening solicitation for bids on former Fire Station 3, the city has agreed to sell the historic fire house to a developer who has proposed a renovation and expansion that will include apartments.

Under the agreement, approved by the Decatur City Council in a 5-1 vote Monday evening, the city will sell the two-story, 3,483-square-foot building, which has sat at the entrance of Fairview Park since 1927, for $115,000 to Mark Allen, owner of Lu Lu's Pizza and Gaming, which has two locations in Decatur and one in Bloomington.

Allen wrote in his proposal, submitted last month to the city, that he wanted to "expand and enhance" the lower level of the firehouse by pushing it 45 feet to the west. The 12 feet by 12 feet red overhead doors would be dissembled, rejuvenated and then placed in the new, wider front brick wall.

Plans call for either two 2,100-square foot or three 1,350-square foot "executive level apartments" that would occupy the structure's second floor. Each would have a two- or three-car garage accessible from the alley. 

Allen estimates that the project, beyond the purchase price, will cost at least $750,000. 

The property was initially made available late last year following the opening of the new Fire Station 3 in Fairview Plaza. The city sought to sell the old station to someone who would put the property to its "highest and best use."

Eight proposals were received, with city staff indicating a preference for a proposal to sell the property for just over $100,000 to a Decatur resident seeking to open a cornhole business. However, those plans fell through when the applicant's financing fell through, city officials said. 

Other proposals in the initial round included $100,000 for a coffee shop with with local artist sales, $150,000 for a counseling center, $65,000 for a restaurant and bakery with a residential unit upstairs, $100,000 for business offices and showroom for an existing Decatur contractor, $105,000 for student housing for five people and $75,000 for personal use with two apartments upstairs.

After the city put out a second request for proposals last month, it received Allen's bid and one from a local church that wanted to create a student housing center that would "serve as a safe place for Millikin students and influencers to mingle and/or live." However, the second group did not indicate the level of investment they were willing to make and it would have likely been tax-exempt. 

Allen's proposal sailed through with little debate Monday.

"Residential apartments adjacent to one of the city's most popular parks may be very appealing to individuals that decide to live there, and the city certainly has a need for new housing opportunities," said Councilman David Horn, who voted in favor.

Horn also said the project could encourage further mixed-use or residential development in the area, perhaps even right next door as the Temple B'Nai Abraham synagogue is also for sale.

The lone 'no' vote came from Councilman Bill Faber, who said that it would be "wise and prudent policy for this council is to maintain control of this unique and strategic parcel."

The sale proceeds will go towards construction costs of the new Fire Station 7 at Chestnut Avenue just south of U.S. 36.

Contact Brenden Moore at 217-421-7984. Follow him on Twitter at @brendenmoore13.


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