Yale building ‘up in the air’
Jeremy Nash news-herald.net

About three years after Yale Locks & Hardware parent company Assa Abloy announced it would shutter its Lenoir City location and relocate to Berlin, Conn., the 222,000-square-foot building, which was open for 60 years, remains empty, and Loudon County Economic Development Agency Executive Director Pat Phillips is afraid the property could stay so “indefinitely.”

“We’ve had a few interested parties but nobody’s really stepped up and bought it,” Loudon County Mayor Rollen “Buddy” Bradshaw said.
The former commercial lock production facility has not received any new potential buyers in about a year, after a company backed out of talks with Assa Abloy.

Phillips said while the Loudon County EDA still actively markets the old Yale Locks & Hardware property, officials with prospect companies have shared concerns about the building’s ceiling heights and its “environmental legacy.” A primary concern has been groundwater contamination.

“Whenever environmental issues are involved on a piece of property, it customarily requires greater due diligence and time on the part ... of the buyer and lending institution,” Phillips said in an email correspondence. “With ceiling heights of 14’, the building does not meet the minimum building requirements for most companies.”

Phillips said he considers it a possibility that Assa Abloy could just demolish the building, cap off the site and move out of Loudon County completely. What happens to the property will ultimately be up to Assa Abloy. Phillips said having a lot remain vacant would be a blow to the county. “Unfortunate to see a viable asset being removed,” Phillips said. “Demolition would eliminate the potential for significant job creation.”

The EDA office has been in conversation with Assa Abloy about the facility during the past three or four weeks, Phillips said.

As it currently stands, Assa Abloy Director of Operations Improvement Dave Gray said the building’s future remains uncertain. “The future for that site at this point is undetermined,” Gray said. “We’ve had the site on the market, and we had a couple of offers, none that were considered to be really serious. But at this point it’s undetermined what the future plans are going to be, so that site is still up in the air.”

Knoxville-based commercial real estate group NAI ceased marketing the property a couple months ago after working on the site for about 1 1/2 years, James Roberson, NAI industrial real estate broker, said, adding it was “just something we decided we didn’t need to work on” further.

According to the Loudon County Property Assessors Office, the property was last appraised at $3,060,700. The lot was sold in 1989 for $2.1 million from Yale & Towne Manufacturing to Yale Security Inc.

Loudon County Trustee Chip Miller said Assa Abloy’s tax bill is $18,934, and the property was assessed at a value of $1.2 million.
Gray said Assa Abloy took over the facility in 2000.

“I hope we don’t see it demolished. I mean I don’t like to see it empty either,” Bradshaw said. “I’d like to see anybody in it supplying some jobs. Like I said, I think there’s some environmental issues if it is demolished, so I don’t think it would be a good thing for the county if they demolish that building.”
Yale Locks & Hardware provided 230 jobs to residents in the county when the company was located at 100 Yale Ave., Lenoir City.

“Obviously, that’s always been a concern with the city and, of course, was a big concern when Yale moved out, and we lobbied and tried to get those jobs to stay,” Lenoir City Mayor Tony Aikens said about losing jobs from the plant’s closure. “We would love to see those jobs come in, but at this point I don’t know. I want to remain optimistic about it, but the building has issues. Assa Abloy, they’re a tough company to deal with and, again, we’ve had this one offer. It’s hard to deal with.”