The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

February 21, 2014

County begins additional demolition at old L&S Shopping Center

By Kim West

— A massive pile of rubble is gathering behind the rusty red facade of the former Fred’s Discount Store, as the Limestone County Commission began Thursday to take down the north end of the L&S Shopping Center.

District 3 Foreman Tom Kilgore and level-three equipment operator Jimmy Gatlin spent a portion of the afternoon bulldozing the estimated 8,500-square foot building, which faces North Jefferson Street.

District 3 Commissioner Bill Latimer, who is overseeing the demolition project, said he anticipated it would take several more days to finish in order to allow enough time to salvage materials. He said trucks from District 1 and 2 were also helping remove debris.

“We’ve got somebody that wants to get the glass out of the front of the Fred’s building, and we’re giving them a little time to do that,” Latimer said. “And we’ve got to get something to haul (the rubble) in, and Tennessee Valley Recycling is going to supply that.

“We’re going to haul it away as we tear down. We’re going to recycle the metal and realize some funds out of the metal so it won’t be a total loss.”

He said Fred’s closed “four or five years ago” on the heels of the closure of the nearby Pilgrim’s Pride plant. County records show the final property tax bill was paid in October 2011 for the previous tax year.

“After the Pilgrim’s Pride plant closed down, it seemed as if Fred’s lost most of their customer base,” Latimer said.

The county will likely remove the remaining buildings on the west side of the property, but Latimer said it hasn’t been finalized whether the grocery store will be left standing.

“I don’t know if it will be worth it to try and save the grocery building,” he said. “If someone could use it, I wouldn’t be adverse to letting them but I don’t think we’re going to use it for anything. And it might be cost-prohibitive anyway, on account of having to bring it up to (building) code.”

L&S in years past was a bustling place for shoppers who frequented the former Foodland grocery store, a restaurant that was removed last year and several other businesses.

The county purchased the nearly seven-acre property for $525,000 in May 2012 from owners Dick and Billy Smith. The commission had intended to remodel the Fred’s building to use as office space for court programs, but the bids came in over the estimated cost and those plans were scrapped.

The county has since purchased the former Better Living building on South Jefferson Street to temporarily house the courts during renovations of the Limestone County Courthouse. The site will permanently serve as the home for court programs such as Community Corrections.