The owner of a historic hotel in downtown Loxley is appealing the city’s order to demolish the structure, believing the two-story building can be salvaged and restored to accommodate commercial space. On March 22, the Loxley Town Council declared the century-old Loxley Hotel at 3156 First Ave. an unsafe structure and public nuisance, issuing an order to have it demolished within 45 days.
But on March 29, owner Judy Wilkins appealed the decision to the Baldwin County Circuit Court. Wilkins, who acquired the property with her daughter for $75,000 in 2000, said she believes it’s just an attempt by the town to strong-arm her into an immediate and expensive renovation.
“It’s just one of those irritating things they sometimes do in small towns, but we’re getting ready to go toe-to-toe with the mayor and the town council,” Wilkins said Tuesday.
In response to the order, Wilkins applied a coat of paint on the first floor of the building last week and is making plans to repair a back wall that leaves the building open to animals and wanderers. A cheap addition to the building was demolished in 2020, Wilkins said.
“We’re working on it and I think it’s starting to come around,” she said. “The main thing is to make it look better and make sure the back is secure.”
But Mayor Richard Teal said the council’s move was not an attempt to call Wilkins’ bluff.
“In my opinion I think it’s too late to be saved,” he said of the building. “The floor joists are rotten and the back walls are falling down. This has been an ongoing issue for 20 years with [Wilkins] and I don’t think she can or will fix it.”
Teal said there has been a broader effort around town to revitalize vacant buildings, but despite the hotel’s historic nature, he sees it as no different than any other unsafe building.
“In the past we have had structures in disrepair that have already been demolished,” he said. “If any building gets in the shape or the situation of the hotel, our building department will bring that recommendation to the council.”
Wilkins said the hotel was once the hub of the city, sitting alongside a railroad line that connected Foley and Baldwin County to the rest of the state at a time when a road network was undeveloped. Built sometime around the turn of the 20th century, she believes it’s been vacant for more than 50 years.
“I was working for the historic commission at the time and I had an opportunity to buy it,” she said. “We did some renovations and had some plans for the building, but I had other priorities and time just went by.”
Wilkins is the director of the North Baldwin Animal Shelter, a no-kill charity she founded in 2010 with her husband, former county attorney Red Wilkins. She said the time she has spent at the shelter, along with other distractions, have prevented her from focusing on the hotel over the years. But with its unique architecture and interior design, she believes it can still make good office space.
“The inside is all beaded board, which will take some scraping, but that’s the direction we’re trying to move in,” she said. “Hopefully we can convince the court to stay the order and we’ll keep on keeping on.”
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