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Walnut Towers expected to be complete today

Leonardo Carcamo, left, and Alex Anibal Lobo of Environmental Abatement Inc. toss scraps from the bottom level of Walnut Towers, the top floors of which are being demolished for parking.(Jon Giffin The Vicksburg Post)

[1/16/04]One of the first promises made as downtown revitalization began is expected to be realized today with the demolition of Walnut Towers completed.

The structure that remains at 1500 Walnut St., is to reopen as a three-level, public parking garage. James “Bubba” Rainer, head of the city’s public works division, said he will not know when it will be ready for cars, but the structure will be inspected next week.

“I can’t say because I don’t know exactly what we’ve got to do,” Rainer said. But, “we’ll start immediately trying to get it functional.”

Work began in September taking down what had been termed an “ugly, rusty can” by Mayor Laurence Leyens. The vacant building was one of the newest structures in the area, but was condemned as unsafe after the federal government leased it for about 10 years from private, out-of-state owners.

It was the first structure purchased by the city last year, for $150,000, under the city’s $5.6 million plan to revitalize downtown through the acquisition and renovation of several properties.

It cost $538,000 to demolish the building that went up from the existing parking garage in 1976.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers employees were in the building, often complaining of hazards, until 1988, when city inspectors declared it a firetrap.

The federal employees were moved first to converted office space in the old Battlefield Mall on North Frontage Road and then to a new privately owned facility on East Clay Street in 1996.

After the city bought the property, one level of the garage was temporarily opened for parking, but it was closed for the current work.