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City closes on Alatex land

Mayor Earl Johnson said the city of Andalusia closed on a more than $1 million property deal this week, securing nearly all of the old Alatex site and 6.5 acres fronting the bypass next to Southeast Alabama Gas District.

With the purchase, the city now has 27 acres of the 35-acre site off River Falls Street, and negotiations are under way to purchase the remaining 8.5 acres, which is owned by one of the mill’s successors, he said.

Johnson recently spoke to members of the city’s Downtown Redevelopment Authority about some of the city’s upcoming projects — specifically the refurbishment of River Falls Street and the planned development of an industrial park on the former Alatex property.

He explained the Alabama Department of Transportation had agreed to fund $1.5 million of the proposed $4 million street project that will improve water and sewerage lines, storm water drainage, the road base, resurfacing, curbs and gutters, landscaping and lighting.

The area is host to a multitude of businesses, including a motorcycle dealership, three car lots, two insurance agencies, an auto parts store, an open-air market and the Covington Mall, among others. It is also home of at least half a dozen empty storefronts.

At the old Alatex site, city officials have envisioned a “boutique industrial park.”

“It would be a smaller, lighter, more neighborhood-friendly industrial park,” he said. “No smokestacks or loud applications.

“We’re currently in negotiations with a professional designer who works on industrial parks,” he said. “Our plan is to take that 40-acre park and use it for a high tech industrial park. It’s going to make a tremendous impact on that side of town. It’s going to create jobs and will hopefully do the same thing to that area of town as what happened when we did city hall.”

Prior to the property closing, the Alabama Department of Environmental Management tested the site and found no environmental concerns.