The new owner of the Lenlock Shopping Center said Thursday that he isn’t sure whether he’ll tear the vacant building down, restore it or sell the property to a developer.
Larry Cruz, who purchased the shopping center at auction in June, speaking by phone Thursday said that Jacksonville State University’s Small Business Development Center is conducting a feasibility study to help him decide whether to renovate, raze or sell.
“We just started that process,” Cruz said.
Opened in 1960 on the west side of Alabama 21 just south of McClellan’s Baltzell Gate, the shopping center has been largely vacant for years.
Cruz, who lives in Jacksonville, was the winning bidder at the June 16 auction. Calhoun County Probate Office records show Cruz bought the property on Aug. 4 for $154,000 from Lenlock Center LLC, then sold two of those buildings the next day for a combined $103,000.
Cruz met with Kent Davis, Anniston’s economic developer, Thursday morning to discuss Cruz’s plans for the property.
Davis, reached by phone Thursday, said once Cruz develops a business plan city officials will determine whether to offer incentives to help Cruz develop the shopping center.
“It’s more retail tax revenue, but it’s also more jobs,” Davis said of a revitalized Lenlock center.
Cruz said he’s been approached by business owners interested in locating at the center, “but there are some hurdles we have to get over.”
The City Council in February declared the majority of the shopping center a public nuisance. Mold inside portions of the building is the result of a leaky roof.
The shopping center has remained mostly vacant for years except for two businesses — Bonnie Ray’s Bake Shoppe and Mallory Cleaners Launderers.
Those buildings have been maintained over the years and were not a part of the nuisance declaration.
Cruz sold the building in which Mallory Cleaners Launderers operates to the business' owner, Elrod & Co., according to probate office records.
Bess Elrod, speaking in her shop Thursday, said she had leased the building for decades, and that she plans to remain open there.
Mahesh Vakharia, owner of Smokin’ Joes Tobacco and Beverage store in Weaver, bought the Bonnie Ray’s building from Cruz on Aug. 5.
Attempts to reach the Vakharia and the owners of Bonnie Ray’s on Thursday were unsuccessful.
Cruz estimates that it could cost $1.5 million to renovate and as much as $7 million to build anew.
“About 60 percent of it is sound, and 35 percent had some roof problems,” Cruz said.