Concrete proof: ‘big box’ steel, walls rising

There’s concrete proof. Now everyone can see the steel supports and concrete walls rising – even those who didn’t believe a new commercial center would ever be built on the former Leas & McVitty Tannery site at the corner of West Main and Fourth streets in Salem  Still, company spokespeople and Dick Wilkinson, owner of the acreage and building, aren’t revealing what just about everybody knows: it’s going to be a Lowe’s Home Improvement store. A sign permit filed in the Salem Building Inspections office shows it’s Lowe’s, and so does other official paper work.

Construction personnel on the site are sworn to secrecy, but are willing to talk about estimated completion dates and how well the construction is going.

General Contractor McWhorter & Co. out of Anniston, Ala., began work on Sept. 5 and was pouring footers by Sept. 8, according to Job Superintendent Jim Carr, the only McWhorter employee on the site right now. He is supervising 42 subcontractor employees, mostly masons and iron workers this week, who are rapidly raising the concrete walls and ceiling supports.

“We’re 80 percent done on steel,” Carr said. “It normally takes us 120 days for completion, making it mid-December when the building would be finished. Then you figure time for the two walk-throughs by the company and the punch list. It would take a month or so to stock.”

The store would probably be ready to open “by March or so.”Feature Salem Lowes

Carr is in one of two construction trailers on the site, which most recently was West Salem Plaza before that was razed more than a year ago. Thomas Brothers’ Joe Thomas Jr. is in the other site. His family company did the grading work, and he’ll remain on the site until the job is finished, Thomas said

“We still have to pave the parking lot by the time the building is completed,” he said.

Wilkinson will retain ownership of the building and property, and lease it to the big retailer for 25 years initially.

A strip between Main Street and the future parking lot – behind what was Fast Freddy’s restaurant – and that runs all the way over to Bruffey Street is still owned by .Com properties, the former owner of the shopping center. Local developers say .Com plans to attract other smaller retailers to the site, but the site plan for the expected Lowe’s does not show more than that building on the portion owned by Wilkinson.

Real estate agents are already trying to attract more retailers to empty buildings nearby, by advertising property “directly across from the new Lowe’s Home Improvement.” That’s the wording on loopnet real estate website for the former Daily Grind building, which is offering to lease the 4,900 square feet for $18 per square foot per month.

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