Contractor Joe Caldarera, of J. Caldarera & Co., said he has no tenants signed or set plans, but he said he’s fielded many calls from possible users since he bought the property in February.

Conveyance records filed with the Jefferson Parish clerk of court show Caldarera paid $1.1 million for the parcel, which sits across from where Focis Street runs into Metairie Road.

The property briefly operated as a KFC but was shut down in the late 1990s after the land was found to have been contaminated by prior tenants, who included several dry cleaners dating back to the early 1960s.

Since closing, the building sat vacant and poorly maintained in the center of Old Metairie’s main commercial corridor, surrounded by bustling shops and neighborhood restaurants.

Caldarera said he took the building down as soon as he got a permit from Jefferson Parish to do so.

“It had been neglected for such a long period of time, so one of the things I decided to do is tear this building down, get that eyesore off of Metairie Road and present a better image for the neighborhood,” he said.

He said the soil on the property has been tested by an independent lab, and he expects the state Department of Environmental Quality will soon be able to close the books on that chapter of the site’s history.

Caldarera said he thinks some kind of retail tenant would be better for the site than a restaurant, which typically needs a bigger footprint. He said he welcomes suggestions from the community.

The new building will be in keeping with the neighborhood’s historic elements and aesthetically similar to another building he owns at 523 Metairie Road, he said.

The other building, across the road and on the other side of the railroad tracks from the building that started to come down Monday, will be home to Iron Horse Clothiers & General Merchandise by the end of the year, Caldarera said.