This was an exciting week for the Bedford Village Fire District. On April 26, the Board of Commissioners announced it had sold the historic 1920s firehouse at 34 Village Green for $2 million to a local resident.
The board also revealed that on April 22, it awarded the contract for general construction for the new headquarters at 550 Old Post Road to Niram Inc., of Cedar Knoll, New Jersey. Board chair Heather Feldman said 13 bids were received, ranging from $5,683,913.00 to $9,921,300.00. Niram’s bid of $5,880,000.00 was the second lowest received, but the lowest bid was withdrawn by the contractor during the vetting process.
The Record-Review caught up this week with the historic firehouse’s buyer, Govind Friedland, by phone at the hotel he owns in the village of Positano, Italy, on the Amalfi Coast.
Mr. Friedland, a geologist who said he made his personal fortune in copper mining, revealed that his goal for the historic structure on the Village Green is to transform it into a unique restaurant.
“I’d like to restore the exterior of the firehouse, returning the facade to the way it originally was, with two doors instead of one. I have already been working with the Bedford Historical Society,” he said.
Mr. Friedland has many local ties. He owns residences in Bedford, Katonah and Pound Ridge. His son attends Rippowam Cisqua School.
“My passion is hospitality,” he said. “Here in Italy, I bought the Villa Treville, which had been owned by Franco Zeffirelli, the director and producer of operas, films and television.” Mr. Friedland said Mr. Zeffirelli’s guests had included such luminaries as Maria Callas and Elizabeth Taylor. Mr. Friedland converted the home to a boutique hotel and opened a restaurant at the villa called Maestro’s, an homage to Mr. Zeffirelli, who he refers to as “the maestro.”
“I want to leverage what we’ve done in Italy, helping to restore the Amalfi Coast, and bring that to Bedford,” said Mr. Friedland.
Mr. Friedland said he had his eye on the firehouse for some time and already is dreaming up his plans.
“I’m sort of like the dream buyer because I want to keep what it was and develop something for the community, something for the kids, something for the commuters —serving pastries and coffee in the morning, and white table cloths for lunch.”
He continued, “We have farm-to-table here; I’d like to take our experience, our chefs, and bring that to Bedford. I’d like to promote local sources and artisans, and inject that into the business. I’m a big promoter of Bedford.”
One unique feature will remain, he said: the art deco bowling alley in the landmark’s basement.
Mr. Friedland, 46, believes his project in Bedford can follow in the footsteps of other popular dining destinations in the area, such as the Inn at Pound Ridge by Jean-Georges, offering a contemporary take on international cuisine with an emphasis on farm-fresh ingredients, served in a low-key atmosphere.
“There’s a lot of celebrities in town, and we should have a space for the few that like to have a chance to dine out with a degree of privacy,” he noted.
Though he has many plans in mind, he recognizes “it’s going to take some time.” It will “be a year before the fire department moves out if things go according to plan. Then I’ll be able to take over the space,” he said.
The purchase contract allows the Bedford Fire Department to remain in the 11,583-square-foot building until the new fire department and EMS headquarters is built. The new firehouse will exceed 20,000 square feet in size and cost $14.75 million.
Mr. Friedland has been living in Italy for nine years, and recalled the many steps needed to bring his hotel and restaurant project in Positano to fruition. “We had to work with all the authorities here to make this happen,” he said. “We hope to be able to do something like that in Bedford. I’d like to make my mark on the community.”