Just a few weeks ago, we predicted that the fate of the former Saco Central Fire Station on Thornton Avenue was going to come down to money. And so it did, though not in the way we expected.

The city council voted Monday to sell the building, thereby saving it from the possibility of demolition, but the vote was not made out of the goodness of their hearts. It was not the rallying cry of “save the fire station,” made by its many supporters at a gathering last weekend, that changed the council’s mind. No, it was the fact that developer Cynthia Taylor doubled her offer for the property.

It was only Aug. 20 when the council rejected Taylor’s offer to renovate the 1938 fire station building as a mixed commercial/residential space. At that time, she was offering $50,000.

This past Monday, Taylor offered $100,000 for the property, and the council OK’d the sale.

Her proposal will put the building back on the tax rolls, preserve the building on the National Register of Historic Places, and create downtown housing to help support downtown businesses.

Despite those positive benefits, however, the council felt $50,000 was far too little for this piece of prime downtown property ”“ and we’re glad they stuck to their guns to hold out for a better deal.

Originally, the city was asking $474,000 for the property, which includes the fire station and a newer administration building, but the fire station needs as much as $563,000 of work, according to estimates. That means the asking price was far too high if the fire station remained on the property, but even so, it’s worth more than $50,000.Plus, the city could get substantially more for the property with the old building out of the picture.

Now, at $100,000, Taylor’s offer is a more reasonable representation of what the property is worth if the fire station is retained and renovated. Taylor has said she is going to invest up to $1.2 million in improvements. It’s a mighty good deal for her, in the long run, with historic tax credits taken into account, and the city will have a historic building renovated while earning tax income from the property.

This was a bit of a game of chicken for the council, however, and it’s lucky that Taylor came up on her price, because the political fallout of a vote to demolish the fire station would have been significant.

If more than 60 people were willing to show up on a beautiful autumn Sunday to hold signs in support of saving an old brick building, that means there were many more who are of the same mind but couldn’t make it to the rally. Within and outside of the city, support for keeping the old building was strong, even as people recognized that it needs at least half a million dollars worth of work to be up to code for reuse.

Would the city have gotten more money for the property by demolishing the fire station and selling the administration building with the parking area? Likely, yes, since the location is great and that building is in good shape.

Would they have altered the cityscape and eliminated a piece of Saco and the nation’s history in the process? Yes.

In the end, money came together with historical preservation, and it’s a good thing for this council’s political future ”“ and for the city ”“ that it did.


Today’s editorial was written by Managing Editor Kristen Schulze Muszynski, representing the majority opinion of the Journal Tribune Editorial Board. Questions? Comments? Contact Kristen by calling 282-1535, Ext. 322, or via email at [email protected].