From firehouse to food hall? Developer offers plan for old Rolling Meadows station
Once the location for fire trucks and ambulances -- and maybe even firehouse chili -- the shuttered downtown Rolling Meadows fire station could be converted into a food hall that developers hope could become a destination in the Northwest suburbs.
Coaction Corp. has proposed purchasing the 64-year-old former Station 15 at 3111 Meadow Drive from the city and turning it into The Firehall, an eatery with six booths that would be leased to independent vendors and restaurants, including local craft beer brewer Leaky Keg. Other tenants could include a Thai restaurant, a charcuterie booth, a cocktail bar and a bakery/coffee shop.
"We want to transform an old community center into a new community gathering place and center for people to come enjoy," said Samantha Doro, one of the principals behind the project. "I think the idea of a fire hall is so exciting because when you have a diverse group of friends and a diverse group of people, it's nice to know you can go somewhere where everybody has options and everyone's going to be able to get the type of food or drink that they're excited about."
The two-story, 5,400-square-foot brick building has been on the market for nearly two years. It was decommissioned in December 2019 when the new $5.8 million, 11,925-square-foot Station 15 opened along Algonquin Road.
The online real estate ad, which lists the property for sale at $549,000, makes reference to the city's 2019 comprehensive plan that recommends a commercial adaptive reuse of the old firehouse with a possible restaurant. In fact, the planning document includes one such example of a former firehouse-turned-brew pub: The Firehouse Grill, which is inside a restored early 1900s firehouse in Evanston.
Coaction has submitted preliminary floor and site plans to city hall, and on Tuesday night, the company publicly unveiled the concept during a city council committee-of-the-whole meeting.
Though the mayor and aldermen questioned Doro and her team about parking, their business plan, and what contingencies they have in place if the food hall fails, council members were supportive of the concept, and they directed city staff to continue discussions with the developer. That could lead to a development agreement with terms related to timing, cost and what-if scenarios, packaged with zoning and sale documents.
"I think it's a wonderful concept. I'm interested and excited about the opportunities," said Mayor Joe Gallo. "Definitely would like to see the conversations move forward a little bit more meticulously in the details."
Under the preliminary plans, restaurants would rent booth spaces ranging in size from 100 to 500 square feet on the ground floor. Tables and chairs would be throughout the hall, along with picnic tables with umbrellas for dining outside the three firehouse garage doors.
A proposed phase two calls for the opening of a cocktail bar on the second floor owned and operated by Coaction called Hosed, which would serve mixed drinks, wine and liquor; and the relocation of Leaky Keg and doubling of the dining space.
The owners would also offer vendors a centralized catering manager as a way to gain additional revenue.
Arthur Wang, one of the other principals who has spent the last 15 years in the hospitality and real estate industries, was involved in the development of Broadway Food Hall, which opened in Urbana in 2017.
"My passion is with food and beverage because I think that brings together communities," Wang said. "This is the future in terms of kind of creating the anchor commercial area for the downtown Rolling Meadows."