The Albany City Commission voted Tuesday to hire Oxford Construction Co. to demolish the dilapidated site of the former Heritage House Hotel in downtown Albany.
ALBANY, Ga. — The owners of the Heritage House hotel have abandoned their efforts to stop the City of Albany from demolishing their property, paving the way for the wrecking ball, city authorities say.
Following discussions with the City Attorney’s office Wednesday morning, Greenbriar Holdings and Investments LLC. — owners of the blighted property on Oglethorpe Boulevard — voluntarily dismissed its appeal of Judge Stephen Goss’ September 2011 ruling ordering them to tear it down or risk having the city do it for them.
Chimere Chisholm, the assistant city attorney who was assigned the case, called Greenbriar’s decision to drop the appeal “good news,” and said that it will allow the city to move in and clear out a piece of property that taxpayers have demanded come down.
“After several conversations with Attorney Greg Bailey (local attorney for Greenbriar) he has agreed to dismiss the October 21, 2011 appeal. In essence the City is now authorized to move forward with demolition per Judge Goss’ September 21, 2011 order. From this point forward we anticipate that the bidding process will begin as soon as possible as required by State law so that the Citizens of Albany can be rid of this eyesore and health hazard once and for all,” Chisholm said. “I will say that I am glad to see some closure to this matter as this has been one of my priority projects since being appointed initially in May 2011.”
Albany Mayor Dorothy Hubbard, who made demolition of blighted properties a key element of her campaign, said Wednesday that she was glad the legal hurdles that had delayed the process for the last three years had seemingly now been cleared.
“I think we’re all looking forward to having that property cleared and no longer having to worry about a building that was not only an eyesore, but a threat to the safety of the general public,” Hubbard said.
City Manager James Taylor, the man who will, in all likelihood now be the one responsible for tearing down the building, said Wednesday that the city was considering several different options in how to bring it down.
“This likely will accelerate the process. We’ve been working on some other issues relating to the Heritage House with some other potential partners in anticipation of this happening,” Taylor said. “This will accelerate our efforts to bring the Heritage House down. I think you will see some activity in the next few weeks.”
But don’t expect the wrecking ball to come rolling down the street in some macabre parade of destruction this week. City leaders will have to formulate a plan to remove any hazardous chemicals and environmental contaminants such as asbestos and other things before they bring the building down. And even then, the actual demolition will likely have to be something that is contracted out to a private business given the size and scope of the project.
“It’s important that we do this the right way,” Hubbard said. “This property is in a neighborhood. There are people’s houses and businesses right next to it. So while we want to bring it down as quickly as possible, we have to make sure, and I’m going to suggest to the commission, that we do it the right way,” Hubbard said.
Taylor echoed her comments.
“Certainly we’ll have to some abatement of any hazardous materials and the demolition of some other buildings on and around the property as well,” Taylor said.
considering the asbestos issue and the size of the building, City officials have estimated the cost of tearing the building down to be between $800,000 and $1.2 million.
If Greenbriar retains ownership of the property — the foreclosure process has been initiated by Capitol City Bank — the city would place a lien for the cost of the demolition on the property which would require the owners to pay up if they ever intend on selling the land or rebuilding on it.
The city is rumored to be in talks with bank officials about buying the property outright at a bargain-basement price before demolishing it, which would allow them later to deed to an authority such as the Albany-Dougherty Inner City Authority or the Payroll Development Authority who could then sell it to a private developer — passing the low price along as an incentive to build.