WINCHESTER — A local developer who serves on City Council is seeking permission to renovate and expand the former Sarah Zane Fire Company at 301 N. Loudoun St.
John Willingham, who is chairman and CEO and Stoneridge Development LLC and a Ward 4 representative on council since 2008, detailed his proposal on Thursday to the Winchester Board of Architectural Review (BAR).
Since the former fire hall is located in the city's downtown Historic District, the BAR must approve any renovations or new construction visible from public streets and sidewalks.
Willingham presented his proposal as a conceptual design to get the BAR's input and make sure the Stoneridge project is acceptable within the Historic District.
Plans call for the two-story fire hall, which was built in 1926 at the corner of North Loudoun Street and West Fairfax Lane, to be converted into commercial space. Behind the building, in what is now a parking lot, Willingham is proposing construction of a five-story apartment building.
The most prominent feature of the brick fire hall is a bell tower atop the rear of the building, which was used for drying fire hoses. A 1947 architectural inventory of Winchester stated the tower "is neither properly located nor architecturally strong enough to be adequate," but Willingham said it is a well-known feature that Stoneridge is intent on preserving and showcasing.
To do that, a stair tower will create a division between the fire hall and the apartment building. Additionally, the apartments will be set back farther from West Fairfax Lane than the side of the former fire station, ensuring the bell tower doesn't blend in with the new construction when viewed from North Loudoun Street.
"I think that's a good distinction," BAR Chairman Kevin Walker said. "I appreciate you not dwarfing the hose-drying tower."
The setback means a portion of the apartment tower will be built behind a residential property at 305 N. Loudoun St., which Willingham said appears to have been the home of Sarah Zane's fire chief sometime before the station disbanded in 1981.
Designs presented to the BAR on Thursday showed a proposed layout of the apartment building's third floor, which included three one-bedroom units and one two-bedroom apartment. It is not known if that layout will be repeated on the other four floors, or if it will change as the project progresses.
Willingham said he just wanted to make sure the BAR was on board with the proposal before proceeding.
"I think that's a really nice use for a small amount of space," Walker said.
"It's a nice project," BAR member Don Packard Jr. added.
After receiving a positive consensus from the board, Willingham said he'll return in the near future to seek input on building materials and amenities.
If approved, the renovation and expansion project could also restore a lost piece of the fire hall's history.
"No promises, but we think we found the old fire pole, so we'll put that back up," Willingham said.
Attending Thursday afternoon’s Winchester Board of Architectural Review meeting in Rouss City Hall were Chairman Kevin Walker and members Don Packard Jr., Kyle Hopkins, Beth Elgin and Samar Jafri. Vice Chairwoman Patricia Jackson was absent.