Livingston theater demolition postponed

rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.comJanuary 6, 2014 

— The demolition of the historic Court Theater will be postponed a week because of a setback with required equipment, according to city leaders.

The demolition, set to begin today, will begin Jan. 14, said Livingston City Manager Jose Ramirez.

Ramirez said the demolition company is waiting for the arrival of some equipment, which could take another week.

The City Council last year voted to enter into a demolition agreement with Jim Brisco Enterprises Inc., a Merced-based general contractor.

The landmark theater was built in 1945, but the building has been vacant since it closed in 1977, officials said. The city bought it in 2001 for $120,000 and once planned to restore the building.

Livingston Mayor Pro Tem Gurpal Samra was a councilman when the city bought the theater and said he was a strong supporter of renovating it, but realized three years ago it would no longer be possible.

Repairs were estimated at $6 million to $7 million and Livingston faces a $150,000 shortfall in its proposed budget.

“It’s a really sad thing to see it go,” said Samra, who has lived in Livingston since 1970. “But unfortunately, when you’re laying people off and putting them on furlough you have to make some decisions. What’s better for the city in the long run? I’d rather see public safety and parks be given first priority.”

City officials took steps last week to save a few of the theater’s iconic features – the marquee, the sign and the ticket booth.

The demolition will take about a week, using a large excavator to knock down the theater piece by piece. The empty downtown site will then be filled with soil.

The cost to raze the building is not to exceed $30,000, according to city documents.

Sun-Star staff writer Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.com.

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