VERSAILLES — The walls of the abandoned Versailles Center are tumbling down.
Diversified Demolition of Lexington began tearing down the vacant shopping center Feb. 12, said Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott. The work is to be completed in April; as of Tuesday, the demolition was about 40 percent complete.
Traugott and city officials hope that by removing the old center, a new development will rise on the acreage. "It's akin to a fresh start, in my eyes," Traugott said. "It was being underutilized. I see nothing but opportunity for it."
The city will pay $268,000 to have the center torn down and the debris hauled away. The city plans to recoup that cost by putting a lien on the property.
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That way, should a developer buy the property, the city will be the first in line to be paid, Traugott said.
A corporation affiliated with BPI Bank, which took over the shopping center property in foreclosure, filed a lawsuit last year seeking a temporary restraining order and a permanent injunction to prevent the city from tearing it down. But the bank withdrew its suit, and that allowed the city to proceed.
The center was once home to Versailles Flea and Antique Mall, RadioShack, Sweet Potatoes restaurant, Slone's Market, Rite Aid Drugs, Rivard Fine Jewelry and other retailers.
As with any landmark, memories are associated with the center, Traugott said.
"I remember going out to Sweet Potatoes years ago," he said. "There are a lot of memories there for a lot of people, but the building was just neglected."
Meanwhile, ground breaking is scheduled for early May for a neighboring property on U.S. 60 that will be the site of a new Kroger grocery store. Site preparation is to begin soon, Traugott said.
Nicklies Development of Louisville plans to build a 125,000-square-foot Kroger across the road from the current Kroger. The new Kroger will be comparable to the Kroger MarketPlace stores in the Beaumont area and on Richmond Road in Lexington.
The current Kroger in Versailles was built in 1994 and has 77,000 square feet. It was remodeled a few years ago.