Vacant 1950s Madison Place firehouse will again become a community space where neighbors – and neighborhoods – mix and become friends
Columbia Township is going “Back To The Future” to bring alive again a once-favorite place where generations of residents gathered for their most important celebrations.
Trustees decided to give an extreme makeover to the long-vacant firehouse in our historic Madison Place neighborhood. The firehouse housed the original all-volunteer Madison Place Fire Department formed in 1941. Soon residents will again be gathering and celebrating at the 10,000 square-foot building which is being converted into a multi-purpose venue that will stand again for decades to come.
“We contemplated selling the property, but, at the end of the day, we seized on the chance to transform this beloved place into something really remarkable,” said David Kubicki, President of Columbia’s Board of Trustees. “This restoration will strengthen our community in countless ways.”
The venue is designed to host a wide range of activities, from casual social events with family and friends to non-profit fundraisers to business functions. The renovated firehouse will also become home to Columbia’s administrative offices and Town Hall which are currently in Madeira.
The use of the new venue will be established by residents, businesses and community groups through a collaborative process with Columbia Township.
The large, open venue will offer a “historic modern” vibe at its enviable “Main Street” location between Madison Place and Mariemont along the newly extended Murray Path. The revamped firehouse will help build the Madison Place brand regionally and attract more businesses to the growing Plainville Road corridor.
To ensure that the firehouse, the only building owned by the Township, was put to the best use for the community, the Trustees engaged a Dream Team through the services of Yard & Company, a national urban planning firm based in Cincinnati, and Greenstreet, a consultancy that helps communities align their goals with their real estate assets.
“Virtually any community in the entire country would love to have an asset as spectacular as the Columbia Township firehouse,” said Kevin Wright, Principal of Yard & Company. “There’s not much a facility like this won’t be able to do whether for serious or fun purposes.”
The 1950 former firehouse housed the original all-volunteer Madison Place Fire Department formed in 1941. For its rebirth, the garage bays that housed fire engines will become a large event space with a modern kitchen and bar. Former firefighter sleeping quarters will house a small office space anchored by the township administration and shared with other small businesses. A rooftop deck is being added for visitors to enjoy a nearly 360-degree view of the historic Madison Place neighborhood, Plainville Business District and downtown Mariemont. An outdoor plaza for public and private enjoyment will be built on the former parking pad in front of the firehouse.
Pandemic impacts on contractor schedules and materials have delayed the construction start to late this year. Columbia Township will host a “hard hat” event for the entire community at the former firehouse work. The event will feature storyboards throughout the building with historic “Before” pictures of how rooms were used by the fire department and community and “After” artist drawings of how rooms will look in the new community gathering place. This remarkable firehouse transformation is being funded by four grants worth more than $500,000 plus proceeds from a special fund Tax Increment Financing (TIF) fund paid by commercial property taxes.
- For larger community events, Murray Road can be temporarily closed so that the firehouse’s patio can be extended, allowing even more room for booths, tents, games, demonstrations and more.
- The patio in front of the front bays can accommodate bike racks, picnic tables, fire pits and more.
- The large area inside the front bays can host community and social events of all types. The commercial-grade kitchen and bar facilities will make food and drink prep convenient. In addition,
the space will be ideal for “pop-up” bars and restaurants.
- The back area will be converted into office space, anchored the by the Township’s administration. Additional office space may be made available to Township entrepreneurs in need of
a place to hatch their dreams.
- A rooftop deck above the main bays will create another cool gathering place -with a view -for meetings or special events.
- The huge lower-level back bay area will be renovated to accommodate a wide range of events and gatherings that can flow to the outdoors when the garage doors are open.
- The courtyard of the back bays could host musical events, a biergarten…perhaps something unique that your club or organization would like to plan.
Columbia Township engaged residents and stakeholders over the past year to help plan for the firehouse vision. Here’s a sampling of what we’ve heard:
“It’s an understatement to say I’m so totally impressed and blown away by the exciting plans for the fire station. Columbia Township is so VERY, VERY fortunate to have such great leadership.” –
“Don’t think anyone will do anything but love this. It’s such a great idea, everyone will be flabbergasted that we could do this. We want a community place where neighbors and neighborhoods
can mix and become friends.” – Mike
“Love it! Exciting! Brilliant! A nice gift to the community to end this difficult year.” – Liz
“You’ve thought of everything and more than anyone could have. Love that we’re keeping it for the community. There are plenty of established programs out therethis lets us partner with them in a great space.” – Michael
“[It’s] a great playbook to ask the community what we’d like to see the firehouse become. Real engagement is not just talking about something but getting to participate in its creation.” – Tom
Share Your Firehouse Memories
So many residents have interesting stories and memorabilia connected to the former firehouse. Some of you recall community meetings and social events, others have family members who worked there as first responders. Have something to share?? Email us at: FirehouseMemories@ColumbiaTWP.org or call Lauren at 513-272-0000. We’ll also post an invitation on the Township’s website for you to record your stories to share later through an audio experience at the new venue.
My brother Jim Gratsch was 16 when he became a volunteer fireman at the Madison Place Fire Department. The original firefighters were all volunteers. Our family grew up on Britton Avenue in Madison Place. The plectron (emergency radio) would go off at our house, and 257 meant Madison Place.
Norb Nerl, Paul Burger and Chief Vance were some of the original firefighters. Many men served for years and are still around.
Jim’s going away party to the U.S. Navy was held at the firehouse. He passed away in 2006. Meetings and parties were held downstairs –
when I was young, I was a Brownie and we met in the downstairs. I remember my 8th grade party in the same room – we played spin the bottle and danced. Of course, our teacher chaperoned!
At Halloween the fire department gave away chips and soda. They would set up a coffin there and a fireman would pop out to scare people!
Columbia Township Trustee