Huntsville council plans for annex demolition

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Leaders in Huntsville are continuing with plans to tear down the building next to city hall. This week, they approved finalizing a deal with Gulf Services Contracting for just under $700,000 to tear down the 55-year-old building.

"The building's sat vacant for approximately two years," Huntsville's general services director Ricky Wilkinson said.

During that time, the old city annex in downtown Huntsville has weathered years of neglect.

"The big thing is the mechanical systems. They're really on their last leg. It's original equipment and it's really just beyond its useful life," Wilkinson said.

Built in 1963, the annex formerly housed both the fire department on the ground floor and jail inmates on top. Now city leaders, saying it's not worth the rehab, are opting to tear it down.

"In a downtown setting, it's not anything you can blow and go. It's going to take some time," Wilkinson said.

"We'll leave the site. It'll be leveled out and cleaned up. Certainly, there'll be some bare dirt and grass added, and we'll hold the site as-is,"  Huntsville city administrator John Hamilton said.

Wilkinson says the nearly $700,000 it'll cost to tear down the building will be spent mainly on tearing out the asbestos, a costly job that'll take about three months on its own. Many people who know the building wonder if even the marble can be saved.

"If there's the chance down the line we could salvage some blocks of it. Just to go in the lobby of the new city hall," City Councilman Bill Kling said.

Wilkinson says don't count on it. The marble has cracked, and broken off from 55 years of Alabama weather. Now he says there's not much in the building left to save.

The demolition is expected to take about six months. So far, there are no future plans for the site. Some of the trees next to the building, which were named for former city workers, will be moved and replanted.