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Matthew Kelling stands in front of 215 Ames St., the former fire station his company renovated into a single-family home.

MOUNT VERNON — After five months of renovation work, the sterile fire station at 215 Ames St. has become a stunning single-family residence.

Matthew and Hannah Kelling of Kelling Properties LLC began renovations in late May after buying the property from the Knox County Land Bank. On Oct. 26, they turned over the keys to the new homeowners. In between, they overcame snags and challenges.

The result is 2,700 square feet of living space that retains the look of the fire station yet has the amenities of a modern, high-tech smart home.

“The tall ceilings created some challenges we are not used to,” said Matthew Kelling during a walk-through with Knox Pages on Oct.25. "The size of the project overall is bigger than we're used to. It was fun to be able to be creative with it.

“We knew the end buyer from the start,” he continued. “That had some different dynamics, making it for them rather than just cruising along, which is our normal procedure. They had a certain look in their mind, but they didn't know what was out there. We knew what was out there and the cost. We were able to make what's out there meld with their ideas.”

The former vehicle bay was divided into two sections. One section is now a kitchen with a living area/den at the back. The homeowners retained the 13-foot ceiling in this area. Tile planking on the floor and black ceiling tiles, along with a kitchen island and modern appliances, give the room a spacious, contemporary feel. A door in the den area leads to a new outside patio.

The other half of the bay is now a two-car garage in the front with two bedrooms and a bath at the rear. A mudroom entryway connects the garage to the living area. A ladder in the mudroom provides access to overhead storage space.

The former shower area and crew quarters has become a master bedroom with a walk-in closet and bathroom. Framing on both sides of the existing block walls provide space for insulation and allow for a drywall finish. The former kitchen is now a living room.

The bedrooms, living room, kitchen, laundry room, and bathrooms have 9-foot ceilings. The house is dual-ducted, meaning each side of the house has a furnace and air conditioning.

The project was completed on time and “really close” to budget. In addition to the high ceilings and overall scope of the project, challenges included a faulty drain line. Making the decision to tear up the floor and put in a new line, Kelling discovered that the line was 7 feet deep.

“That took a lot more labor and outside help,” he said.

Kelling Properties LLC bought the property from the land bank for $40,000. The city received $35,000; the land bank received $5,000 for its role in marketing the property and overseeing the bid and renovation process.

“I think overall the end result is not only beautiful and very well done, but it is exactly what the city wanted to be done with that property and what needs to be done with that property,” said Jeff Gottke, president of the land bank and vice president of the Area Development Foundation. “I think it demonstrates creativity and a very high level of workmanship.”

Gottke said the project shows originality from both an ADF and land bank perspective.

“You have a re-imagined fire station on one of the busiest roads into the city. That shows visitors who we are and that we have vision to re-imagine old things and make them useful and beautiful,” he said. “That's exactly the image that we want to portray to people from outside of town from a development standpoint.

“From the land bank perspective, this shows you the value that land banks have in our community, that we can take surplus government property that probably would have ended up as a garage, and through our bidding and application process, identify a buyer who will turn it into a very creative and re-imagined single-family residential space,” he continued. “It shows how choosing the right person makes a difference.”

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