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Old Bristol firehouse is available

BRISTOL — The town of Bristol is soliciting Requests for Proposal from parties interested in purchasing and renovating the town’s 1897 firehouse at 32 North St.
The fire department moved into its new fire station on West Street at the beginning of July, leaving the beautiful old building on North Street vacant.
“The selectboard is looking forward to seeing these proposals,” said Bristol Town Administrator Therese Kirby. “A renovated firehouse will benefit the town because someone is going to buy and redevelop and show that building the love that it deserves.”
Proposals are due Oct. 3. The selectboard will then review the proposals and select two semifinalists to present their ideas to the selectboard in November, after which the selectboard will select the winning proposal and transfer the property.
Important to the selectboard are the ways a renovated structure would enhance Bristol.
Selectman John “Peeker” Heffernan stressed that the selectboard wanted to see “who’s going to give us the best end product — not necessarily the most money — but the best end product.”
The selectboard also stressed that the RFP wording make clear that any prospective owner hoping to win acquisition of the 119-year-old building must be committed to maintaining and preserving its “historical integrity.”
“Look what happened to the Bristol Inn,” cautioned Ted Lylis. “It was going down the tubes. All of a sudden they mobilized, ‘Oh, we’re going to renovate this place and bring it up to standard’ and so on. That never happened. They sold the place. It got ripped down and turned into a parking lot.”
Lylis was one of many Bristol residents who spoke eloquently at the Feb. 29 town meeting about the importance of preserving the historic 1897 station, reminding residents of the loss to the town’s historic fabric with the demolition of the Bristol Inn, old high school and old Saint Ambrose church. 
At town meeting, Selectman Joel Bouvier also noted that the North Street fire station was at that time one of the two oldest fire stations in the United States still in active use.
Given the likely cost of renovation — estimated at $500,000 to $800,000 — the selectboard had already decided that selling the building — with restrictions for historical preservation in place — is the best way for the town to move ahead.
The RFP puts no restrictions on what a new owner could do to the second building on the property, the so-called Station 2, built in the 1970s. And the selectboard assumes that it would likely be torn down.
Over the past several months, the property has begun to draw interest. The town has to date heard informally from around eight different parties interested in purchasing the property, which has been appraised at a fair market value of $130,000.
In July, Kirby and Bouvier held a walk through of the property for interested buyers.
Proposal packets are available through the town website, bristolvt.org. For more information, contact Therese Kirby at 453-2410 or at bristoltown@gmavt.net.
Reporter Gaen Murphree is reached at gaenm@addisonindependent.com.

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