Demolition crews on Monday were razing the former hotel, ending 44 years in which the building has overlooked the city from its site at 4th and Quintard. Clearing the land could create a prime spot for commercial development, some city officials say.
Jim Coxwell, owner of the site, said he did not yet know what he will do with the property after the building is gone.
"I'm just tearing down a building, I don't have any plans yet," said Coxwell, who also owns Longleaf Lodge at McClellan.
Mayor Vaughn Stewart said the city has been in talks with Coxwell and will support his efforts to market the property.
"I think that is a prime piece of real estate on top of the hill," Stewart said. "We would love to see a retail commercial entity go there ... it will be a much better gateway to the business sector than what has been there."
The previous Anniston City Council lost a bid for the inn when the property was foreclosed and auctioned off in 2010. At the time, some of the council wanted the property to ensure it was used for retail development. Stewart said his administration is not interested in owning the property.
"But the city will encourage any retail development there," Stewart said.
Though the dilapidated Downtowner has been a relatively unused eyesore for some time, that was not always the case. In its heyday, the hotel and its restaurant were a staple of the community and the social scene of Anniston. The inn hosted many functions for politicians and area organizations, such as the local Rotary, Civitan and Kiwanis clubs.
Coxwell regained possession of the Downtowner about a month ago after previously donating it to Renovation Ministries in 2010. Chris Terrell, executive director of Renovation Ministries, said his organization could no longer afford to maintain the deteriorating building.
"It was just too far gone and we didn't have the resources to develop it, to keep it up from being a nuisance," Terrell said. "So we just reverted it back to the person who donated it to us."
Renovation Ministries, a community outreach organization, had dubbed the property “Renovation City” and used it as a gathering place for youth ministries from around Calhoun County.
"For a year we were really gung-ho about it, but then it became more than we could handle," Terrell said. "Being a community-based organization, instead of spending millions of dollars on renovations, we wanted to focus our money elsewhere."
Renovation Ministries most recently organized an event to provide Thanksgiving meals to 500 families in the Anniston area.
Coxwell said given all the unfinished renovation attempts and the continuing deterioration of the inn, there wasn't much point to trying to save it.
"Many people had just been tearing it down so I just decided to tear it down," Coxwell said.
Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.