The Gray Town Council is wondering what to do with the Village Fire Station, and has sent out a call seeking developers with ideas for one of the town’s oldest buildings and a cornerstone of its downtown area.

Councilors this week approved a broad request for proposals concerning the Village Fire Station, a prominent brick building at the heart of Gray’s busiest intersection that has been empty since earlier this year.

They are banking that by the Nov. 17 deadline someone will come forward with a viable plan to buy or lease the building and develop it in a way that agrees with and bolsters the village area.

“The hope is that somebody will come up with an idea that we haven’t in our wildest dreams thought of, and it’ll be the right one,” said Councilor Tracy Scheckel.

The request by the council carries little in the way of parameters or stipulations to a prospective developer. It was kept vague on purpose, councilors said, so that potential suitors could be as creative as possible.

“We tried to be as flexible as we could in giving a lot of time and leaving things as open as we could,” said Pete Gellerson, council chairman.

Councilors reached for comment said they would like to see the old building stay intact as a piece of the work being done to retool the downtown village, which centers around the intersection of routes 100, 26, 115 and 202. They also hope whatever direction the building takes, it remains in design and use in keeping with what Gray residents want.

“I’d certainly like to save the building. But what the purpose is going to be, I don’t know.” said Gellerson, who added that he would like to see the building put to commercial use and back on the tax rolls.

The town has obtained a Community Development Block Grant of at least $106,000 to build brick sidewalks, install streetlamps and possibly create a loan fund for property owners to renovate their properties, and at the annual town meeting this year residents approved an additional $55,000 from a tax increment finance fund on the Northbrook Business Park. The goal of the project is to recreate the downtown to a classic, pedestrian-friendly town center, where residents can walk, shop, eat and generally take in the small town atmosphere.

“You want to see what somebody wants to put in (the Village Fire Station building), and is that going to be consistent with what the overall plan for the town is,” said Councilor Matt Sturgis.

Scheckel said the options for the building are limited only by the creativity of the developer.

“I think it would an adorable antique shop. I think that it would be a wonderful architect’s office,” said Scheckel.

The building, however, is not without problems. It is one of Gray’s oldest buildings, having housed the town’s first municipal offices. There is no septic system and little parking space. Add an economic climate that has caused commercial development to slow, and Gellerson thinks developing the fire station could be a tough sell.

“Honestly, it might be that no one comes forward,” Gellerson said. “It looks like a tough one, from my point of view.”

But one of the buildings drawbacks could also be a selling point, Sturgis said. The footprint of the building takes up most of the property, and with setback requirements could not be replicated, he said.

“You wouldn’t be able to do that today in a downtown area,” Sturgis said.

Because of the challenges of finding the right plan to fit the building and the area around it, Gellerson does not expect to see any plans from interested developers for a couple of months. Then the council will have to review the proposals to see if any are a good fit for Gray.

“I think it will take a little while to come together,” said Gellerson.

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