Oxford Construction workers tape up plastic sheeting along the exterior of the former Heritage House hotel Thursday. Oxford began demolition and environmental cleanup on the facility and adjacent homes.
Albany, Ga. - Demolition and environmental cleanup work began Thursday on the former Heritage House hotel site with work expected to be completed by September 30, officials say.
Work crews were putting up plastic sheets and taking measures to seal up the exterior of the hotel itself ahead of work to remove asbestos from the building. Two adjacent structures associated with the structure and located behind the hotel were leveled Thursday.
Oxford Construction had purchased the security deeds for both the hotel site and the adjacent structures from Capitol City Bank and foreclosed on the property, which had previously been owned by Greenbriar Holdings, LLC. When Greenbriar owner Romeo Comeau failed to purchase the property by a Tuesday deadline, Oxford began staging on the site, city officials say.
Oxford has until Sept. 30 to finish clearing the hotel site, under an agreement with the city. If the site is leveled and cleared by October 15, the city will purchase the new site for $1.1 million, officials say.
The intent would then be to sell the property to a private developer who would then create a private development on the site.
"Absolutely," City Manager James Taylor said. "Our intent is to get it into the hands of a private developer who will begin building something immediately that will generate revenue and get it back onto the tax rolls."
Taylor says he's already had interested developers knock on his door to inquire about the future of the property.
The $1.1 million price tag will be funded through a mix of federal Community Development Block Grant funding and local tax dollars from the city's general fund, Taylor said.
On March 27, the City Commission voted 5-0-1, with Mayor Dorothy Hubbard abstaining and Ward V Commissioner Bob Langstaff absent, to enter into an arrangement with Oxford to ultimately obtain the Heritage House property.
The demolition has been a long time coming.
The city has twice had to take the owners to court in an effort to get court-ordered demolition permits, which it now has. Last year, a jury ruled that the property “had no value” and was a threat to the public health, safety and welfare.
But it wasn’t until owner Romeo Comeau decided not to appeal a Superior Court decision to tear the property down that the city got the go-ahead to demolish the structure.
Since that time, Taylor says that he’s been working to find a viable option to tear the building down quickly but in a way that’s financially feasible for taxpayers.
“Given the circumstances, this is the best deal we could negotiate,” Taylor said following the March 27 vote. “We’re trying to get it down as quickly as we can, as cheaply as we can.”
Taylor said that Oxford had proven itself with demolition of the Pritchett Ford building — a blighted structure on Slappey Boulevard that had stood for years and eventually came down when Oxford negotiated terms with the bank that was in possession of the building.