KIMBALL — Six years after it was purchased by a real estate investment company, the former Walmart building in McDowell County is still empty.

“No activity. It is just still sitting there empty,” Frances Hale, director of the McDowell County Economic Development Authority, said. “It breaks my heart every time I go by there.”

Hale said officials were hopeful that a new business would move into the old Walmart after it was purchased in 2016. According to earlier reports by the Daily Telegraph, the building was acquired by a real estate investment company for $175,000 on Sept. 15, 2016.

“We thought when they purchased it that they were going to put a Rural King down here,” Hale said. “And then that didn’t happen.”

In a 2017 Daily Telegraph article, representatives with Rural King said the company had no current plans to open a store in McDowell County.

The McDowell County Commission has attempted on several occasions to buy the building back from the real estate investment company — but the asking price has ranged from $1 million to $1.2 million, according to commissioner Michael Brooks.

“We tried to get them to sell the property for what they bought it for — $175,000,” Brooks said. “Unfortunately, they were not receptive at all.”

Brooks said the county has repeatedly attempted to work out a deal for the old store.

“They’ve not been willing to come to the table,” Brooks said. “I said let us do it. Let us prepare it for some economic development, and do something.”

The fact that the old Walmart is still empty also presents a security challenge for the county, according to Brooks. He says the sheriff’s office receives frequent calls about the building.

“It’s a continual security issue,”Brooks said. “It has electricity and there is an alarm system there. and there are people continually trying to get into the building.”

There is still interest in the structure, according to Welch Mayor Harold McBride.

“There has been some people really, really trying to attract someone in that building,” McBride said. “It’s been really, really tough.”

McBride said McDowell County, and the city of Welch in particular, is still growing and gaining population. If the building isn’t sold, he is still hopeful that the owners will open a department store at the site.

“Little by little we are gaining in population, and we aren’t dropping any,” McBride said. “So the more people we are gaining, they may look at using that building. So our main objective right now is to draw people. “

Hale said the cost of purchasing the building is a deterrent to local residents.

“I wish someone could afford it and buy it,” she said. “It’s terrible to see something like that sit around.”

Walmart closed its Kimball store in 2016. Approximately 140 jobs were lost at the time, along with significant tax revenue for the county.

Hale said the building would still be an ideal site for a prospective business or industry.

— Contact Charles Owens at cowens@bdtonline.com

— Contact Charles Owens at cowens@bdtonline.com. Follow him @BDTOwens

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