Normally known for expanding its various businesses and brands, Bowling Green’s Houchens Industries is doing some heavy-duty demolition this week, turning the area near U.S. 31-W By-Pass and East 10th Avenue into piles of rubble as three buildings described as “eyesores” are leveled.
The former Wiesemann Orthodontics building at 1030 U.S. 31-W By-Pass – which burned in January – and the former Natural Health Center for Integrative Medicine at the 1022 address on the bypass had been demolished by Wednesday morning.
A third building scheduled to come down, the former Junior Foods convenience store at East 10th and the bypass, was still standing but has a $5,000 permit for its demolition on file with the city of Bowling Green.
Warren County property valuation administrator records show all three properties are owned by Houchens Properties Inc., leading to speculation about plans for the parcels along the heavily traveled bypass.
An employee-owned, multibillion-dollar conglomerate with such holdings as Crossroads IGA and IGA Express, Houchens apparently has no immediate plans for the property.
“This is purely cleaning up some eyesores,” Houchens CEO Dion Houchins said in an email.
But that could change as the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet moves forward with its plans for a “road diet” on a section of the bypass that could make development of the Houchens properties more palatable.
Houchins said the company “will not be doing anything” until traffic can turn left onto East 10th Avenue while heading south on the bypass.
That could happen soon.
The KYTC, acting on the recommendation of the Strand Associates consulting firm, last year approved a plan for a “road diet” on the bypass from Lehman Avenue to the roundabout at University Drive that should solve that left-turn problem.
Strand’s recommendation is designed to trim problem areas along the road simply by drawing new lines as part of regularly scheduled repaving.
In the case of the bypass, the plan calls for converting the existing four-lane road to a three-lane artery that includes a two-way left-turn lane in the middle.
Joe Plunk, chief engineer for the KYTC’s District 3 office in Bowling Green, said the project can be done for an estimated $350,000, the cost that would be incurred to resurface the road with or without a road diet.
“It is a cost-effective way to maximize the existing footprint of the road,” Plunk said last July when the plan was announced.
Plunk isn’t certain how soon the re-striping work could begin, saying: “It hasn’t gone to bid yet, but it’s scheduled to be bid later this year. It’s on our paving schedule for this year.”
A resolution of the left-turn problem and a resulting Houchens development on the property would no doubt be welcome by many residents of the area.
Wiesemann Orthodontics relocated to 1212 Ashley Circle after the fire, and the Junior Foods building has been vacant for months.
Houchins pointed out that the Natural Health Center for Integrative Medicine building has been vacant since its tenant, naturopathic doctor Juan Sanchez Gonzalez, was killed in March 2017.
Omer Ahmetovic was charged with murder in Gonzalez’s death, but he pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter in March 2018 and was granted shock probation in December of that year and released from the Warren County Regional Jail.
– Follow business reporter Don Sergent on Twitter @BGDNbusiness or visit bgdailynews.com.