Posted inLocal Government

City hits roadblock in trying to sell century-old fire station, so what’s next for the historic relic?

To get inside Fort Worth’s historic Fire Station 12, you need a drill. 

The century-old building is nailed closed to prevent vandals from gaining access, but a step inside reveals plenty of damage has already been done. The city of Fort Worth tried to sell Fire Station 12 for a minimum of $335,213, but buyers weren’t convinced that the building is worth what they’re asking. 

Once the door has been opened, stacked pieces of ceiling, flooring and insulation block the path  of visitors. A portion of the ceiling in the center of the front room has collapsed, revealing inner ductwork. To get to the second story, people must jump a gap of stairs. Graffiti decorates walls on both stories of the station, which sits at 2410 Prospect Ave. in Fort Worth’s Northside.

When a group of retired firefighters and community members toured the station May 10, they were there to inspect the building and see what it would take to transform it into a firefighters’ museum

Gail Tidwell, who previously worked in the city’s Code Compliance Department, was one of the people who visited the station. Based on the condition of the building’s interior and its unusual zoning, she said, she didn’t expect the city to secure a buyer at the price it was asking.

Her prediction proved accurate. The city ultimately took the fire station off the market, after the highest bid received — $265,314 — failed to meet the minimum bid requirement. 

“We did receive one bid, but it was $70,000 less than the minimum bid amount. It cannot be conveyed unless this threshold is met or exceeded,” Steve Cooke, director of property management, said in a written statement.

Lone bidder wanted building as art studio, home

Shane Clendening, the only bidder on the property, said he put in an offer in the hopes of transforming the station into a combination arts studio and residence.  

Clendening currently lives in Haslet, he said, and he’s looking to downsize to a smaller property. He wanted something unique for his next home, and an old fire station fit the bill perfectly. His plan was to live on the second level, and open up the first level as a space for art, namely pottery.

“I wanted something that people could come in and draw or play, spin clay and make a pot,” he said. “Somewhere you could make a mess, and it wouldn’t matter.”

Clendening said he wasn’t aware that he was the highest bidder — or that his bid had been rejected — until the Fort Worth Report called him for comment. 

“The system sucks,” he said. 

A portion of the second story of historic Fire Station 12. The windows of the station have been boarded up with wood, but light peeks through small holes. (Emily Wolf | Fort Worth Report)

The whole bidding process left Clendening with a sour taste in his mouth. If he, as a property owner, had allowed his house to get in such bad condition, he’s sure the city would have condemned it by now.

“But they don’t condemn their property, because there’s profit there,” he said.

Mowing and boarding up a surplus property like the fire station is typically all that the city does in these situations, Cooke said.  

The city’s minimum bid requirement is consistent with the property’s 2022 appraised value of $333,613, which includes a land value of $27,838. The old fire station sticks out compared to the other buildings around it, which are largely residential homes with much lower appraised values by the Tarrant Appraisal District.

“We typically use the TAD value on these properties as we have to have something to go by on the value,” Cooke said. “If we have an appraisal of the property, we will use that, but this is very rare. In every case, we have to have some basis of value and TAD works well for this on surplus property.”

People gather in the front room of historic Fire Station 12. (Emily Wolf | Fort Worth Report)

Station previously operated as child care center, filming location

Even if Clendening had managed to purchase the property, his dreams of living there wouldn’t have been realized overnight. In addition to the needed repairs to the fire station, a zoning change would be required in order to make it suitable for residential use. 

The fire station is zoned as CF, or community facilities. That means it can be home to only public facilities, like churches, government offices, schools and recreational facilities. 

In the 1990s, the fire station was repurposed as an early learning facility, called Station 12 Day Care Center, by Child Care Associates. Small, knee-high sinks in the front room remain as a reminder of the station’s secondary use. 

Child Care Associates stopped using the fire station as a day care center in 2013, after the organization saw a reduction in federal funding and was forced to close the location.

“I regret that this decision had to be made and thank you for your support for the past 23 years,” Robert Duke, Jr., then the interim president of Child Care Associates, wrote in a letter to the city announcing the closure. 

Public documents reviewed by the Fort Worth Report show the station was also used as a city election polling place in the 1980s. 

A broken mirror above a sink in the first floor of historic Fire Station 12. (Emily Wolf | Fort Worth Report)

But while the fire station has sat vacant for years, its parking lot has seen more activity. In April 2022, the city signed a contract with TV director Jarod O’Flaherty, allowing O’Flaherty to film for his show, “Vindication,” in the fire station’s parking lot from April 27-28. 

As part of the  agreement, the city of Fort Worth will receive production credit and marketing through social media and other media outlets.

O’Flaherty himself is a Fort Worth native, and parts of the show have been filmed across Dallas-Fort Worth, including in Flower Mound, Waxahachie, Cedar Hill, Mansfield, Kennedale, Arlington and Burleson. The filming in the fire station parking lot was for a Season 3 episode, which has yet to be released.

Sale on hold as city explores new fire station proposal

Retired firefighters continue to hold out hope that Fire Station 12 could be transformed into a firefighters museum

“It’s the only station we’ve got left in Fort Worth that’s available and that hasn’t been torn down or somebody’s already in it,” Royce Shields, vice chair of Fort Worth Firefighters Museum Committee, said in a March interview.

But after talks between city management and retired firefighters regarding a long-term lease stalled, the city is taking a look at whether the land the station sits on could be repurposed as a new fire station location. Under the fire department’s master facilities plan for the next several years, the city intends to replace and expand older, smaller fire stations.

“The fire department has made a request for us to look at the site for a possible new fire station location in the future,” Cooke said. “Our architects will be looking into this, so we won’t offer it again until we can answer this question. On first look, it appears too small, but we will get our experts to look at it to make sure.”

There isn’t a set schedule on the architectural review, Cooke said. Finding easements or possible drainage issues can complicate matters, as can findings that restrict land use. 

“So, after we identify all issues, we go back to whomever is making the request and see if they can deal with the identified issues,” he said. “Sometimes getting these answers takes time as it often depends on the use and if they can modify the use.”

Until that review is complete, the future of Fire Station 12 remains unclear. For now, the red brick building remains boarded up along Prospect Avenue, empty except for the remains of its winding history. 

The historic Fire Station 12 stands vacant on Prospect Avenue. (Cristian ArguetaSoto | Fort Worth Report)

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