City considers plan for Stahl Urban bldg.

Published 6:00 am Friday, January 20, 2006

An Alabama businessman has contacted the city with plans to teardown one of Brookhaven’s first manufacturing plants, said aBrookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce official.

A Tuscaloosa, Ala., contractor approached city officials with aproposal to tear down the old Stahl Urban Manufacturing plant,located on Main Street in the Pearlhaven community of Brookhaven.Officials did not want to identify the businessman until a deal isfinalized.

The proposal is to tear down the original building for thesalvageable materials, which the contractor’s company would gain inthe demolition process. In exchange, the contractor will gravelover the lot and make it suitable for the current tenents which arelocated in warehouses on each side of the old manufacturing plant,said Cliff Brumfield, Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerceexecutive vice president.

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“The decision, as I understand it, was to move forward with thedemolition of the building pending the city attorney looking intoit,” said Brumfield.

Brookhaven City Attorney Joe Fernald said the city is movingtoward the transfer.

However, under state law, the building must first be deemedunusable for the purpose it was intended, Fernald said. He fullyexpected a letter for that purpose to be presented at the nextboard meeting in February.

“We have to justify on the (board) minutes that the property isunusable for the purpose it was intended before we can moveforward,” Fernald said.

Fernald agreed with Brumfield that the property is unusable.Brumfield appeared at this week’s city board meeting and aldermenexpressed support for the proposal.

Brumfield said there is a need for the contractor to be able tobalance his expenses with the salvageable items he will gain fromthe demolition of the building and still make a profit.

“At the same time there is a good amount of materials that needto be disposed of,” Brumfield said. “It will be a considerableexpense to the contractor.”

Brumfield said the city is still awaiting information on theinsurance, bonding and other credentials of the contractor’scompany before moving ahead with the demolition.

“We want to make sure the city’s and the taxpayers’ interestsare covered in the event of any liability,” he said.

Demolition of the building has come up several times in thepast, Brumfield said.

At one point it would have been profitable for the city to teardown the building, he said. But as time goes on, the buildingcontinues to deteriorate, and at a more rapid pace.

A tour of the building last Friday revealed a leaky roof andvarious holes and weak spots in the building’s wood flooring.

Brumfield said, at this point, it would benefit the city to letthe contractor tear down the building while there is still value inthe salvageable materials.

According to an early 1980s speculative brochure, the originalmanufacturing plant was constructed in the early 1940s as a garmentfactory. The seven-acre site consists of the original plant,warehouses and a 75,000-gallon water tower.

Warehouses on each side of the original structure were added in1949, 1959 and 1963. The current site consists of three buildings:the original main structure in the center and warehouses on eitherside.

The warehouses are currently leased. SUCO owns one of the metalwarehouses while the city retains ownership of the other metalwarehouse.

“We’re not talking about doing away with the real estate,”Brumfield said, “Just the property above ground.”

Brumfield said a search for a permanent tenant for the mainbuilding has remained fruitless in past years. He cited an unusableelectrical system, low ceilings and faulty flooring as just some ofthe reasons the building has been uninhabitable.

The building is owned by the city, Fernald said. At one time,the city had transferred the property to the IndustrialDevelopement Foundation (IDF), but the property reverted to thecity when the IDF stopped using the property, as state lawrequired. Fernald said the Urban family stills owns a warehouse onthe property.

The building proposed for demolition consists of over 65,000square feet, much of which is covered with 1-inch maple flooring.Other salvageable materials include ceiling to floor joists, beamsand rafters.

After Stahl Urban ceased operations, tenants of the buildingincluded Auburn Sportswear and Kellwood Co.

Brumfield said once the go-ahead for construction is given, thecontractor could be on site within a couple of weeks.

Because of the nature of the demolition, the building will bedismantled by hand, Brumfield said. That will help preserve anymaterials that may be resuable by the contractor.