Tahoe City business owners, residents weigh in on future of Station 51 | SierraSun.com

Tahoe City business owners, residents weigh in on future of Station 51

The North Tahoe Fire Protection District's Station 51 currently stands here on the west end of Tahoe City. But, the NTFPD is scheduled to move in Fall 2011, and local business representatives have mixed feelings about what they'd like to see in the building's place.

TAHOE CITY, Calif. and#8212; Some see and#8220;Grant’s giftand#8221; turning into a spectacular lake vista and public park for residents and visitors. Others see a performing arts center standing in the space occupied by fire Station 51. Others would like parking for Commons Beach.

Whatever becomes of the location when the North Tahoe Fire Protection District moves to its newly proposed home on Fairway Drive in Fall 2011, it will have to be the community’s choice.

and#8220;It’s ours to do with as we wish, depending on regulations,and#8221; said Tahoe City Downtown Association President Dave Wilderotter. and#8220;And there’s plenty of opportunity there.and#8221;

Duane Whitelaw, chief of the North Tahoe fire district, said the North Lake Boulevard property, which was given to the and#8220;People of Tahoe Cityand#8221; by former President Ulysses S. Grant in the 1870s, can be very positive for Tahoe City.

and#8220;You don’t get these kinds of locations often,and#8221; Whitelaw said.

The Placer County Redevelopment Agency will oversee the property but doesn’t have an interest in calling the shots about what could go in at the site.

and#8220;We’re not looking to drive the process,and#8221; said Rich Colwell, county redevelopment director. and#8220;We’d rather look to serve as a supervisor for whatever the community decides should go there.and#8221;

The final approval for the site would go to county’s board of supervisors, and Jennifer Montgomery, who represents North Tahoe to the board, said she’s already begun to informally poll residents about what they’d like to see on the site.

and#8220;Most people say they’d like to see the building torn down to open up a view of the lake,and#8221; Montgomery said.

Tearing the property down is an option most seem to agree on, and Colwell said the redevelopment agency and NTFPD would work together to pay demolition costs.

An estimate dated earlier this decade puts a demo cost at around $125,000, said Whitelaw, saying asbestos mitigation work inflated the cost. Still, a new estimate would be needed, Whitelaw said.

There’s also a question as to whether tearing the property down would affect the integrity of the fire station’s neighbor building, the nonprofit North Tahoe Arts, which is connected, Whitelaw said.

Karen Ellis, executive director of North Tahoe Arts, said she’d like to see an arts- and culture-oriented plaza and possibly an area for performances.

Christin Hanna, a TCDA director, said she’d like to see a 200-seat performing arts center.

Hanna, who’s also involved as artistic director of the Tahoe Youth Ballet, said the town is badly in need of a performing arts center, as North Tahoe High School’s auditorium is unsatisfactory.

and#8220;I could see a lot of live music there, an out-of-town opener for groups from San Francisco and Sacramento,and#8221; Hanna said. and#8220;It’d be nice not to have to go to San Francisco for a chamber music concert, and it’s a two-way street and#8212; we’ve got great business when the snow falls, but in times like right now it’d be nice to have another attraction to draw visitors up here.and#8221;

Some sort of venue for performances would work perfectly for the space, said Steve Topol, owner of the Blue Agave restaurant in Tahoe City.

and#8220;I think we need more attractions in downtown,and#8221; Topol said. and#8220;A performing arts area, maybe an amphitheater, ties in with the summer concert series down at Commons Beach. It’s an unbelievable location.and#8221;

Others like Jim Henderson, owner of the Napa Auto Parts directly across the street from Station 51, would prefer nothing go into the ground.

and#8220;I’d prefer a nice view of the lake,and#8221; Henderson said. and#8220;We’re all hurting for parking, it’d be nice to see some extra parking go in over there. Just not some eight-story building, I’d definitely be against that.and#8221;

Wilderotter said the site could serve Commons Beach nicely as a parking lot, or an open community park or plaza with underground parking.

and#8220;What’s nice is just to have the opportunity for the community to make the decision,and#8221; Wilderotter said.

Montgomery said there’s no rush to a decision on the property and no timetable for decisions to be made.

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