You know the saying about when life hands you lemons?
In a sense, New Albany and particularly the downtown area have been handed a lemon with the announced closing of Fred’s.
There is the loss of jobs for employees, many of whom have worked there a long time, and there is the loss of convenience for anyone who works or just happens to be in the downtown area.
How nice it has been to just walk across the street for many an everyday needed item instead of having to get in a vehicle and drive to the other side of town.
At this point we can’t do much about Fred’s. Its loss was pretty much inevitable from the time the company began trading profitable pharmacies for quick cash.
And it is unlikely that the niche Fred’s has filled will be filled by another business, although there is still some hope for that.
If there is any good that may come of this, it is that the city may be able to squeeze a bit of lemonade out of the situation.
For several years officials have talked about the need for new municipal facilities, especially a new police department and light, gas and water department.
While the police department is in the historic former city hall, the building is too small, inefficient, difficult to maintain and has various other shortcomings.
The light, gas and water department is actually in a building about as old as the city hall, but has fared better with renovation from its early days at the lone fire station.
Still, more room is needed.
So city officials have quietly been looking at land, considering building designs and putting feelers out.
Then came the “for sale” sign in front of Fred’s.
It occurred to most that the building is large enough for a police department, courtroom and utilities office. It is conveniently located and has plenty of parking.
Of course the building would need considerable renovation and it is in the flood plain so a study would need to confirm it has not and is not likely to actually flood.
The asking price is about $700,000 and the city has offered considerably less than that, but the question is who else would be interested in that building under the present circumstances.
While it would cost quite a bit to renovate, the alternative would be to spend likely several hundred thousand dollars on property and, according to the mayor’s estimate, as much as two to three million dollars each for the two needed buildings.
It may not work out, but if it does, the loss of Fred’s could indirectly benefit the taxpayers of New Albany greatly.