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WATCH: Demolition starts on downtown theater

Ninety years of Middletown history isn’t standing a chance this afternoon.

Large equipment from Vicker’s Demolition is knocking down the exterior brick walls of the former Studio Theater on Central Avenue. Motorists are being cautioned to slow down in the area.

RELATED: City explains ‘miscommunication’ that led to $150,000 error

City leaders have said they’re unsure how long it may take to demolish the building. Crews will have to be careful because there are occupied buildings in the area. The theater has been vacant for more than 30 years.

Earlier this month, city leaders said miscommunication about a bidder’s position resulted in that bidder not receiving the contract to demolish a downtown Middletown building and increasing the costs of the project by more than $150,000.

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The former theater has been on borrowed time since 2009, when it was originally scheduled to be demolished before a lack of funds postponed it. City officials said the building was deemed inappropriate to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places and cleared for demolition in 2009 by the Ohio State Historic Preservation Office.

According to local historian Sam Ashworth, the downtown theater opened as the Strand Theater in 1929 with 1,800 seats and closed in 1959. It was remodeled and reopened July 16, 1964 as the Studio Theater with seating capacity reduced to 1,000 seats. The theater closed on April 24, 1984, but the office space on the second floor continued to be occupied until 1988. The building been vacant since.

Jennifer Ekey, city economic development director, said the city acquired the title to the 30,000-square-foot Studio Theater property in 2014.

The former Studio Theater on Central Avenue in Middletown Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018.

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