Demolition begins on Phenix City's old casket factory

chwilliams@ledger-enquirer.comApril 1, 2014 

The old casket factory in Phenix City is almost history.

The 33,000-square-foot warehouse on Fifth Avenue that has been everything from a casket factory to a textile mill is in the process of being torn down.

And that process is moving slowly.

Last year, Phenix City condemned the facility that had been vacant for more than a decade. Owner Ellis Austin, who now is retired in Wetumpka, Ala., had two choices -- tear it down himself or let the city tear it down and charge him.

"I'm taking it down," said Austin, who owned a textile business in the plant from the late 1980s until about 2002.

Demolition work started a couple of weeks ago and is about 50 percent complete. Austin has hired J.B. Demolition of Montgomery to take it down at a cost of between $40,000 and $50,000, he said Tuesday.

Though the deadline for the structure to be torn down has passed, Phenix City government officials have extended it because Austin has started the process, which he said could take a couple of more weeks.

"Right now, we are working with him because it is complicated to tear it down," City Manager Wallace Hunter said.

The building has been detached from an apartment and some of the materials, including steel beams and brick, are being salvaged, Hunter said.

Prior to the condemnation, Austin had been trying to sell the building for as much as $450,000. Recently he had lowered the asking price to $250,000, but had no takers.

Austin said he plans to put the land back on the market when the building is gone. He is not sure what the asking price will be.

The land is on the edge of an area near the Chattahoochee River that is being redeveloped. The new Courtyard Marriott hotel is not far from the site. The city is also planning a parking deck adjacent to it.

"I would like to sell it," Austin said. "There is a lot of development going on in that area."

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