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January 5, 2014

Demolition of historic theater set to begin

By this time next week, the historic Livingston Court Theater will be just a memory in the minds of longtime city residents.

By this time next week, the historic Livingston Court Theater will be just a memory in the minds of longtime city residents.

City officials couldn’t save the landmark theater from demolition, but they took steps Friday to begin saving a few of its iconic features – the marquee, the sign and the ticket booth.

“It was important to save these elements of the Court Theater because they’re historic relics that can be used in the future when a new facility is built,” said City Manager Jose Ramirez. The pieces will be stored in the city’s public works yard, he added.

Ramirez said demolition of the Livingston Court Theater, built in 1945, will begin Tuesday. The building has been vacant since it closed in 1977. The city bought it in 2001 for $120,000.

The city once planned to restore the building, but that’s an unlikely prospect with repairs estimated at $6 million to $7 million and a $150,000 shortfall in Livingston's proposed budget.

“Whenever you have an iconic building, and there’s a lot of history and culture behind it, you always look at how you can save it,” Ramirez said. “Sadly, we couldn’t save it because of financial constraints and health and safety issues.”

The demolition will take about a week, Ramirez said. A large excavator will be used 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.

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

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