A South Perry landmark came crumbling down Tuesday morning when heavy machinery moved in to tear down Lonnie’s Auto Repair.
The shop was at 826 S. Perry St., on the northwest corner of East Ninth Avenue and South Perry Street.
The owner of the property, Grant Keller, was watching from across the street.
“It is kind of exciting to see it come down,” Keller said, in between taking pictures of the demolition.
Keller and two business partners purchased the property from Lonnie D. Sandros last year after Sandros and two others were arrested for selling drugs from the auto repair shop.
“We really wanted that piece of property and had been waiting for it to come up for sale,” Keller said. “We got our foot in the door at just the right time.”
A duplex at 1315 E. Ninth Ave., is also owned by Keller and will be demolished.
He said he purchased it at an auction after a foreclosure and declined to say for how much. Online county property records show that Lonnie’s sold for $165,000 a little more than a year ago, but had no recent updates on the duplex property.
Since he purchased Lonnie’s, Keller has sought input from the neighborhood about which business would be ideal there.
The combined lots are about 12,000 square feet, and for now they will be cleaned up and leveled.
Several big trees will remain and Keller said he plans to rent space there to food trucks until a permanent tenant can be found.
“The concept is to develop a food truck pod here until we can build something,” Keller said.
The first food trucks may show up in a week or two.
Keller owns Terrabella Inc., a landscape design and construction business.
“We are still looking for the right tenant to go in here,” Keller said. “We will do something that’s a good match for the neighborhood – it won’t be a drive through or anything like that.”
Because Lonnie’s was a gas station and auto repair shop for decades, Keller was a bit concerned about pollution on the property.
He said city records show old gas tanks were removed in 1991 and no contamination was found back then.
“We have just completed all the environmental tests for contamination and we passed,” Keller said. “That was a relief.”
The empty lot on the southeastern corner of Ninth and Perry is still under development by owners Harold Preiksaitis and his wife, Lisanne Laurier.
Preiksaitis said the project has been stalled for about a year, but he’s hopeful there will be a complete plan for the site ready by the end of this month.
“We plan for a restaurant or retail space on the ground floor, and office space on the second floor,” Preiksaitis said, adding that original plans for residential spaces upstairs were abandoned.
“I’m sure the neighbors are anxious to see that weed-covered lot disappear,” Preiksaitis said. “We hope to start building before the weather turns cold.”