Harbins wanting to tear down house, expand


Updated 7/8/20 at 2:32 p.m. - Updated to reflect name of business is Harbins, not Harbin's, and to add weblink to the business. 

JASPER - Harbins in Jasper is wanting to tear down the old 1920s house across the intersection to expand, noting the old home is not structurally sound to be used. 

The home, which at one time housed the old Blossom Shop business, was discussed during a work session on Thursday, with Jeremy Harbin reviewing Harbin's plans.

Harbins, which was created in 2007, and the old home are located at the intersection of 17th Street W and 6th Avenue S. The landscaping business is known for upgrading its quadrant of the intersection as part of the downtown renewal.

"We are trying to extend the footprint of Main Street downtown just a little bit further," Harbin said, saying that area of town is reviving. Another friend of his just purchased a home on Sixth Avenue that is about to be renovated. District 2 Councilman Danny Gambrell said Sixth Avenue is the oldest road in Jasper. 

The ownership of the company is young, Harbin said and the Harbins are still trying to invest in town, while bringing in business to the city. Anywhere from 120 to 180 visitors are coming in on Fridays and Saturdays, he said, with 30 percent coming in from out of town and even from Memphis, Tennessee, and Franklin, Tennessee. He said many are following the business on social media. 

Some are also attracted seeing the business in person. 

"Yesterday I sold three pallets of stone to a guy from Haleyville," he said. The man happened to be at Lamar Glass and saw the business, went back for a trailer and came back to Jasper, ate lunch and drove back with the stone. 

"We were obviously out of space and COVID for us was actually a good thing. I know it's been bad for a lot of people, but for us it has grown our business 10 fold.

He said the Blossom Shop building came open, but it has been in the middle of three attempts to change hands since 2016. 

"It has been vacant for 13 years. It is dilapidated. I was able to buy it. We need it down," he said.

Harbins is landlocked all around his business, and nothing would be "available in the near future without spending lots of money."

The house went through one renovation, but Harbin said the work turned out as a "terrible, terrible job." District 4 Councilwoman Jennifer Smith appeared to agree, noting she looked at it. 

"It could have been phenomenal - a great staple in town if they had renovated it correctly," Harbin said.

District 2 Councilman Danny Gambrell said it is one of the older houses in Jasper. 

"You've got it looking good over there," Gambrell said of Harbins, jokingly asking if there was a way to lock the doors when his wife comes to visit. 

However, he said he hated to see an old house like the one across the street from being demolished. 

"But there are sometimes you have to do things," he said.

Smith said her investigation leads her to think the house dates back to the early 1920s. Harbin said he has been told it was constructed maybe 1923 or 1928, although Gambrell thought it was earlier than that and part of a collection of houses that used to be in that area. 

"It is a shame something has to go," Harbin said, later adding, "When things get past a certain point, it is better to start fresh than to try to repair." 

He said the company is already starting to clean up some of debris and rubbish around the property. He would like to move ahead now, as he would like to have pumpkins and mums in place by the fall, as well as Christmas trees for the holiday season. 

Harbin said he hired a structural engineer who looked at the structure. "I mean, it can't pass any test without significant funds. When I'm talking significant, it was a quarter million dollars to get that house in operation. 

"I don't need the house. I called a moving company to come look at it. It was $71,000 to move the house. They can't guarantee that it makes it. I need the dirt space," he said. 

Harbin wants to extend the garden center and nursery on to that area. He notes in Central Alabama he does a large amount of hardscaping, which is said to be parts of a landscape design such as walkways, patios, retaining walls, firepits, and driveways.

"We want to bring in 75 to 80 pallets of stone and big bolders that are already selling and taxable income for the city." It would also have large trees, much like was done on the city's streetscaping, so people would not have to drive 80 to 120 miles to get a ball burlap tree, "not just a container tree at Home Depot," he said. "They can put their eyes on it and see it. We can install it" or put it on someone's truck for a do-it-yourself weekend project. 

Harbin said someone mentioned to him if the city condemns a property, a lien is placed on the property for what the resources cost the city. "I don't want you to put a lien on the property and tear it down, but if you want to give me an estimate or an invoice, I will pay, I will write a check for that, to have it down. It is a win for me but a win for the city, too."

City officials said there is a process to nuisance property, but if the property is condemnable and he approaches the city and asks for it to be torn down, the city does not go through the nuisance abatement process. The council approves to tear it down for cost. 

Gambrell said the council would discuss the situation and look at the cost.