The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

January 10, 2013

County demolishes vacant L&S restaurant

By Kim West

ATHENS — With the holidays in the rearview mirror, the county continues to make progress on site preparation at the former L&S Shopping Center on North Jefferson Street.

A county crew that included District 3 foreman Tom Kilgore and equipment operators Chris Shedd, Stacey Pope, Bill Boldin, Ronald Rouse and Rick Watkins spent several hours Thursday demolishing the vacant restaurant building.

By lunchtime the home of a restaurant known by several different names since the 1960s was reduced to mounds of rubble as workers drove Mack trucks brimming with debris to the District I tool shed. The estimated 2,400-square foot building occupied a portion of the seven-acre L&S property sold by Dick and Billy Smith to the county for $525,000 last May.

“It quit raining, and we had it in the works to do that (today),” said Bill Latimer, District 3 commissioner and project leader for L&S. “That’s the last thing we’re going to do right now. We’ll probably eventually remove the building on the back, which includes Fred’s and the flea market.”

Latimer said workers removed an incinerator from the Foodland building and also would take down the loading dock located behind the grocery store.

“The grocery store had an old incinerator in it, and we tore that down because it was getting fragile and liable to fall on someone,” he said. “We’re going to tear up the loading dock (today).”

The county plans to eventually move County Corrections, Pardons and Paroles to the L&S site from its current home in the Crutcher Shopping Center on South Jefferson Street.

All four county commissioners have said they would likely approve building a prefabricated metal building on the property to house County Corrections and an 11-foot-by-7-foot Emergency Management equipment trailer because bids to renovate the old Fred’s building were higher than the estimated $300,000 cost.

County workers bulldozed a pair of dilapidated rental homes and several trees from those lots on Tuesday morning. The rear building is slated for removal upon approval by the Limestone County Commission.

The back building includes the former Fred’s Discount Store and the shuttered Southern Farmer’s Flea Market. The left side of the L&S property features the grocery store, which closed in September 2011 after 58 years, and a handful of businesses still in operation, including Shireman’s Barber Shop, which celebrated its 48th anniversary last month.

Shireman’s, JoAnn’s Beauty Shop, Herbal Life and Hispanic Alcoholics Anonymous are still in operation on site. District 1 Commissioner Gary Daly said these businesses were allowed to continue to lease their present spaces when the county purchased L&S several months ago. He said once a current business shuts down or moves to another location, the space would not be leased to another business.

County officials said the businesses are charged a minimal monthly rent based on square footage. The rents range from the $125 paid by Shireman’s to $175 paid by JoAnn’s and Herbal Life. The AA group, whose entrance faces Ninth Avenue, pays $150 per month.

One rental house remains from the original three and rents for $150 per month. There are no immediate plans to remove the home, which is in better condition compared to the two that were razed.