At a Mayor and Council work session on June 11, the Kentlands Firehouse RFP Committee recommended converting the now-vacant Kentlands Firehouse into residential units or small offices while preserving the original look and character of the property.
The committee, comprised of nine community members and now-Acting City Manager Tony Tomasello, provided its recommendations as part of a comprehensive report and said these options were viewed as providing the highest utility to the community and the city.
The city charged the Kentlands Firehouse RFP Committee with reviewing the existing conditions of the property, assessing for redevelopment and reuse, developing an extensive list of potential uses, and identifying key factors to be included in the city’s RFP. After touring the property, the committee held eight meetings between March and May and received numerous suggestions and comments from the audience regarding what to do with the property. The committee coded and ranked the suggestions for alternative use under “Redevelopment Ideas” and “Adaptive Re-use Ideas” (private and public).
Considered uses were varied, ranging from such commercial options as a bed-and-breakfast or small inn to mixed-use possibilities including arts on the ground floor and office or residential space above.
The Kentlands Firehouse, located at 321 Firehouse Lane, in Kentlands, once housed Otis Beall Kent’s fire engine collection and fully equipped fire department. It also served as a dormitory for farm workers, and the basement served as a fallout shelter in case of war. It has been recommended as a historic resource in Gaithersburg, based on the city’s Code of Ordinances.
The committee also recommended that “Choosing by Advantages” criteria be used in the proposal evaluation process and presented development factors that should be addressed. For example, the committee said the structure chosen should be the same height as the other buildings in the vicinity on Hart Road and Firehouse Lane. Also, proposals in response to the RFP should include a concept design with elevations, the report said. They should also retain the historical integrity of the original structure and great consideration should be given to creating an arts campus for the community and the city.
Tomasello, who served as city representative on this project, said the RFP should be drafted within the next five to six weeks. “There are still things to work through, as a follow-up to the report. [For example,] we have to decide between a public and a private focus for the building,” he said.
Committee Co-chair John Schlichting said the committee was “very careful to try not to bias the process with personal opinions.”
“We have made ourselves available to the city for any further information or help regarding our report and developing the RFP,” said fellow Committee Co-chair Robyn Renas.
Renas added that the committee’s meeting minutes are posted on the city website for public review.