Historic Tyler building to be demolished, car wash coming to Aza - KYTX CBS 19 Tyler Longview News Weather Sports

Historic Tyler building to be demolished, car wash coming to Azalea district

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TYLER (KYTX) -

Wednesday morning will mark the beginning of demolition efforts on the long-standing Ben Fitzgerald Real Estate building at Old Jacksonville Highway and Ninth Street. The building was completed in 1966. Ben Fitzgerald moved to another location on Tyler's south loop last year.

Longview developer Jeff Reich of Reich Enterprises has stepped in to build a new car wash on the site, but the project has drawn some criticism.

As construction equipment rolled in Tuesday, Wendy Vandeventer was next door worried about what happens next.

"Although we do live in an urban area, we're kind of concerned about some of the things we've heard," Vandeventer said. "We've heard it's really loud."

Vandeventer and her family have lived in the area since the early 1990's. She said her family is used to change in the area but a car wash may be too much.

"The other thing we're concerned about is the traffic," Vandeventer said.

"We've changed the design up a little bit to fit the area," Reich said. "The Azalea District. We plan on starting the demo just as soon as possible."

When Reich was drawing up plans for the car wash he was unaware of the history that came with the land.

The Ben Fitzgerald building was designed by a famous architect named Bruce Goff. Since it's the only confirmed example of Goff's work in Tyler, some people fought to stop the demolition. The city decided not to intervene.

"You know, [some car washes are] unattended. There's trash blowing everywhere. And that kind of gives a car wash a bad name," Reich said. "Well that's not what we're doing."

Reich said the car wash will be staffed all the time just like his other one on Tyler's west loop. But it will be finished in a brick facade and toned down compared to that one.

He's also hoping to avoid traffic problems by cutting the number of entrances and exits.

"[It] is a safety concern for TXDot," he said. "We're going to take those curb cuts out and we're only going to have two."

Neighbors like Vandeventer will have to wait and see.

"The property is zoned for that kind of business so there's not really anything we can do about it other than be concerned," she said.

The Ben Fitzgerald building will not be a complete loss. The Tyler Historical Society is working with the demolition crew to save the sign. They also want to keep the front doors which are one of Bruce Goff's signature features.

Several neighbors mentioned a petition against the car wash. It was not available to be viewed Tuesday. Reich said he has not seen the petition either.

The Midas auto shop on that property is already shut down. The owner of the London antique shop said after 41 years his last day in business was Monday.

The site should be fully cleared within the next month. Reich wants to have the car wash open by the first of September.

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