South End aims to sell extra building
WINCHESTER — Members of the South End Volunteer Fire and Rescue Company have decided that they need to focus on emergency services and fundraising.
That means the company should get out of the self-storage business, so it’s put an adjoining property it owns on the market.
At their December meeting, fire company members voted to sell the former Buncutter Tire Co. building at 612 S. Braddock St. The property at the corner of Braddock and Germain streets abuts South End’s fire and bingo halls at the corner of Braddock and Monmouth.
The property is listed at $490,000.
South End Fire Chief William Moreland said that if the building sells, it will help the organization pay down debt. It owes about $400,000 on a fire engine and needs to repay a $150,000 loan it received from the city in December 2011 to make needed facility and equipment repairs.
“Basically we feel . . . it would reduce some of the debt we have and put us in a better financial situation,” Moreland said. “We want to use the proceeds to pay things off and put us in a position where we are close to debt-free so the money coming in from bingo can be saved for future needs.”
According to the property listing, the building was constructed in 1930 and is on 0.512 acre of land. The building is 15,281 square feet, and half of the units are vacant.
The assessed value of the property is $480,800. The listing indicates that total taxes are $4,568 annually.
The property is in a Residential Business District zone, which means uses such as multi-family dwellings, retail, office, church and restaurant are allowed by right. The building has five overhead bays at street level and one dock.
Bill Wiley, an associate broker with OakCrest Commercial Real Estate, is the listing agent. While other uses are possible, he said he thinks the highest and best use is self-storage.
“It’s surrounded by homes and businesses,” he said, “so the market is right there. It’s just a matter of seizing that market and letting people know you’re available to be of service.
“I think somebody who’s plugged in to the community and has management skills for the self-storage or warehouse business, they could come in and make that place sing.”
In 2011, Moreland said rising expenses and lower revenue from bingo — the fire company’s primary fundraiser — had put the organization in a fiscal bind. City Council approved the loan at no interest, and South End didn’t have to begin repaying it until this month.
Bingo revenues remain low, he said, and that “directly affects how the fire station is run.”
Moreland said city officials agree with the sale decision.
City records indicate that South End bought the building in 1988 for $175,000.
It was a self-storage business then and was supposed to provide income to support the company’s mission, Moreland said, but the volunteer group doesn’t have the resources to manage it effectively and has had multiple management companies operate it. Maintenance costs have drained the revenue that is being generated.
At one time it was thought that a new fire house or a city public safety building could be built there, or a private developer might want to partner with the fire company on an income-generating project
“None of those things have come to light,” Moreland said, “and we feel like the best thing to do is to sell the building and get ourselves more financially sound so we can look at the future in a different way.”
Moreland said Thursday that he had no information on how much revenue the company receives from renters or what its expenses for the building are.
If the building’s buyer decides to change uses, he said renters will be given ample notice to find another location.
The South End bingo hall’s roof and heating and air conditioning system also need to be replaced, Moreland said, and selling the self-storage property would move the company closer to being able to afford that expense.
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