Back in October of 2014, I wrote about the Jersey Firehouse under new ownership. Attorney Steve Weiss of Cannon Heyman & Weiss, LLP, picked the place up and was considering its future use as a restaurant. Shortly thereafter, Steve decided that it would be better if he moved his firm into the building, and began to think about transitioning out of Larkinville. It’s been a while since I talked to Steve about these developments, until this morning, when he clued me into a new direction for the building.
Steve is no longer going to relocate his firm into the firehouse due (primarily) to space constraints. Instead he has renewed a ten year contract in 726 Exchange Street, where the firm will be taking over a larger footprint, formerly occupied by Travers Collins (acquired by The Martin Group).
As for the firehouse, Steve expressed an interest in helping to move a project along. The building would serve as an incredible restaurant, brewery, distillery, coffee house, or any other use that would that would benfit the neighborhood and best serve the architectural gem for years to come. Some of the greatest cities have converted firehouses, jails, etc., into wonderful public spaces, and this firehouse should be considered for similar uses.
“We’re not developers,” Steve told me. “But we would be interested in a joint venture that would take the interest of the neighborhood to heart. Or we would consider selling it outright if we knew that the new owners would also pay respects to the heritage of the building and the needs of the neighborhood.”
This is a walking neighborhood, and with parking at a premium, it means that someone would have to come up with something that would draw people in from surrounding streets, without relying heavily on cars.
There is an outdoor area that would make a fantastic courtyard.
Remove the asphalt jungle that surrounds the structure and replace with something more aesthetically pleasing and environmentally sensitive – such as permeable parking, which would benefit future tenant.
The firehouse is also located directly behind the Porter Avenue Karpeles Manuscript Museum, which recently benefited from a new Grassroots Gardens addition at the corner. There could be a fruitful synergy between these two historic buildings.
I would hate to see this building simply become solely dedicated to offices or residential. It screams out for a use that would benefit the public. Hopefully there is someone waiting in the wings, looking for this type of project to tackle, with or without the instrumental help of Steve and his crew.
*Cannon Heyman & Weiss, LLP is a boutique law firm located in Albany, NY and Buffalo, NY with substantial experience in public and private financing transactions, including municipal finance and tax credit syndication transactions. Prior to and since forming CHW, members of the firm have provided counsel to clients in the areas of affordable housing and community development law, including the syndication of various federal and state tax credits, other tax incentives, and a variety of securitized debt instruments such as tax-exempt bond financing.