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SOUTH GATE : Old Fire Station May Get New Role

March 20, 1994|MARY HELEN BERG

A lot of fires have been set at Fire Station 52.

Littered with fallen plaster and empty cans of spray paint, the abandoned firehouse near the corner of Firestone Avenue and State Street has become a canvas for graffiti and an occasional flophouse for transients.

Inside, where fire engines were housed, walls bear burn marks from fires touched off by vagrants. About six weeks ago, firefighters were called to douse flames in the Station 52 carport, where someone had sought shelter.

Now, after nine years sitting vacant and abused, Station 52 may soon be razed or renovated.

The county closed Fire Station 52 in 1985 after the city refused to pay an additional $300,000 in property taxes to the Consolidated Fire Protection District. The property was turned over to the city in December, and St. Francis Medical Center requested that the city donate it for development as a health care clinic.

After touring the station last week, St. Francis vice president Ron Dahlgren said the center "would be doing a community service to get rid of this blighted property."

It would be cheaper to raze the station and build a new clinic than to renovate it, said Bob Walters, St. Francis vice president for facilities, after he inspected the building for structural damage. Renovation would cost an estimated $4 million, but constructing a new 5,000-square-foot clinic at the site would cost about $1 million, he said.

Although the building's skeleton appears to be in fairly good shape, the station would need to be stripped to its frame, seismically retrofitted and treated for asbestos before renovation could begin, Walters said. The property will also require an environmental cleanup because of an underground fuel tank once used to fill the fire engines.

St. Francis' original request to take over the property prompted the city to call for other proposals for its use. The Commission for South Gate Youth has suggested converting the two-story building constructed in 1938 into a recreational facility to serve the western part of the city, but the city has had few other offers, said City Manager Todd W. Argow.

"We hope for proposals for public-service uses as well as private development proposals that might generate tax revenue for the city," Argow said.

Added Public Works director Jim Biery, "I don't think there's necessarily a rush to do anything with (the property). But it's a highly visible site, and it's an eyesore."

The city will accept proposals through April 7, and the City Council is scheduled to consider uses for the property at its April 19 meeting.

Information: (213) 563-9565.

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