With a roar that can be heard out to Richmond Road, excavators rumble to life each morning at the Lexington Mall parking lot. Looking like prehistoric beasts with long arms and giant claws, they begin their day's work, biting off pieces of the onetime retail destination.
Little by little, the mall is disappearing as the site is being prepared for a satellite campus of new owner Southland Christian Church. But it raises the question: Just where do you take the remains of a mall?
It turns out some of it doesn't even leave the site. As the work by Lexington's Superior Demolition proceeds, the clawed-excavators separate out materials: sheets of tin, structural steel, bar joists, brick, concrete blocks and drywall — each in its own pile. Masonry material will be left on site, where it will be crushed and incorporated into constructing parking lots and reconfiguring the property's pond.
Other materials that can be recycled are being taken to Baker Iron & Metal's two locations in Lexington, said Norman Preston, vice president of Superior Demolition.
Preston estimated his crews will haul 100 loads of steel, aluminum, tin and copper in 36-foot trucks to the sites. Tin goes to Baker's on Seventh Street for shredding, while structural material heads to the facility on Old Frankfort Pike.
Baker will pay for the metals and will eventually ship them to foundries, where they will be melted down.
Debris that can't be recycled, such as drywall, ceiling tiles and old cabinets, are being hauled to the city landfill on Haley Pike. An expected 100 loads of debris will end up at the site, which charges the company $450 to dump each 36-foot truck load.
Superior Demolition began work on the project May 2. Asbestos removal occurred first with actual demolition starting three weeks ago. As one crew pulls down walls, another is gutting the interior of the former Dillard's department store. That two-story section of the mall will remain and be converted into classrooms and offices to accompany the new construction.
Southland paid $8.1 million last year to purchase the buildings and 31 acres from Maryland-based Saul Centers, which had owned the property since 1974. The mall, which opened the next year, had been vacant since 2005 when its final tenant, Dillard's, closed.
Demolition should be complete and the site cleaned up by the latter part of July, Preston said. He declined to say what Superior was charging Southland, but similar projects cost about $700,000.
Superior does up to $10 million in demolition projects annually, specializing in taking down highway bridges.
"I'll bet we've done 150 interstate bridges," Preston said, noting many are along I-75 in Kentucky.
Once Preston's teams are done, foundation construction will begin soon after.
"Bid packages are on the street right now for the foundation system," said Chris Hahn, lead executive pastor of Southland. "It should be awarded within a week or so."
It can't be too soon for neighbors on Idle Hour Drive such as Ruth Atwood, whose home looks out on Lexington Mall.
"That place has been home for the homeless, the stopping off place for people doing drugs," Atwood said. "You look out the door and see all kinds of goings on over there, most of it illegal."