City Gives Owner 60 Days to Clean Up Infamous Gas Station to Avoid Demolition After Fire
The city of Tuscaloosa told a property owner this week that he must clean up one of the area's most infamous buildings or see it demolished.
The building in question, the Quik Mart gas station at the corner of 15th Street and McFarland Boulevard, has been an undisputed eyesore in the center of the city since it was badly damaged by the catastrophic tornado of April 27th, 2011.
Even as the rest of Tuscaloosa recovered around the abandoned gas station, the building has remained boarded up and vacant for almost 12 years now as the owner of the property, Charles Wyatt, fought drawn-out legal battles over the property's post-tornado purpose.
Wyatt reportedly planned to lease the lot to a title loan company after the tornado, but those plans were stalled by new regulations passed by the city of Tuscaloosa regarding the redevelopment of properties damaged by the tornado. When Mayor Walt Maddox's Tuscaloosa Forward plan was introduced and passed, it forbade title loan companies in the recovery area, snuffing out that possibility for Wyatt.
Further complications came when the state of Alabama seized a portion of the property through eminent domain to facilitate a road improvement project to upgrade the intersection, reducing the gas station lot size and hampering easy access to it.
Last year, a judge finally ruled that the state had the right to seize the property and the only matter left to decide was how much compensation was owed to Wyatt, and a jury later found Wyatt was owed $318,000 for the property.
With the legal battle over, Wyatt has finally listed the property for sale, but progress must be made quickly before the city takes the matter into its own hands.
At a Tuesday council meeting, the city's Chief Property Maintenance Inspector Barry Junkin said a recent night-time fire brought municipal staff back out to the property, which is reportedly home to 41 violations of city code.
Wyatt was represented Tuesday by Bill McGuire, the President or RCI Contractors & Engineers, Inc., who asked the council to table the matter for 90 days and allow him time to seek and obtain demolition permits for a "limited scope" teardown on the site.
McGuire said he intends to clean out the inside of the building, patch its roof and resecure the entire property, then paint whatever boards are used to that end so it looks less dilapidated.
Junkin had recommended allowing only 30 days before the council considered ordering their own demolition again, and the council compromised by unanimously voting to give Wyatt and McGuire 60 days to demonstrate they are serious about finally getting this property looking good.
Maddox said Wyatt had every right as a property owner to fight the eminent domain in the courts for as long as he has but now that the matter is settled, it's time to see improvement there.
"This is probably one of the most asked questions that we receive from our constituents, about this structure and that corner," Maddox said.
McGuire pledged to oversee the project himself and said the council would be pleased when they see him again in April.
"Give me a try," McGuire said. "[If the work isn't underway] when 60 days is over y’all can run me out of town, but I’m going to get it done."
McGuire said Wyatt and his realtors have at least two potential buyers interested in the property and they have confidence this matter will finally get closure, 12 years after the tornado that caused it.
For updates on the property and other development news in and around West Alabama, stay connected to the Tuscaloosa Thread.