Middletown will pay more for theater’s demolition

Demolition of the 90-year-old Studio Theater in Middletown has been delayed after the city said it was forced to hire a new contractor.

Brunk Excavating was originally contracted to demolish the theater at 1345 Central Ave. this month. But, the company was unable to meet the city’s timetable for demolition, according to Shelby Quinlivan, city communications coordinator.

The city now has a new demolition contract with Vickers Wrecking for $485,000, which is about $150,000 more than the previous contract.

ExplorePHOTOS: See inside the former Studio Theater in Middletown

Quinlivan said demolition will begin in mid-May at the earliest. Pre-demolition environmental checks are already underway at the site, she said.

The city is moving forward with the demolition after four failed attempts seeking development proposals for the building that has been has been vacant for 34 years.

The building, which is now gutted and deteriorating, has created water infiltration issues for adjoining structures, officials said.

ExploreMORE: Man pins theft suspect in Middletown parking lot

The former theater has been on borrowed time since 2009, when it failed to get placed on the National Register of Historic Places. A lack of funds postponed the 2009 demolition plans.

The city acquired the title to the 30,000-square-foot property in 2014, according to Jennifer Ekey, Middletown economic development director.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

In January, city officials said they would make one last effort to solicit viable proposals to redevelop the building before opting for demolition. The city did not receive any proposals by the March deadline.

The city received two proposals last year to redevelop the Studio Theater, but only one was viable, according to Ekey. She said one bidder did not meet the minimum financial requirements, and the other withdrew its proposal after the engineering reports were completed.

ExploreMORE: The newest attraction coming to Jungle Jim’s? It’s top secret, but here are a few clues

Two engineering firms that performed assessments of the structure deemed its redevelopment would cost $3 million to $5 million.

The downtown theater opened as the Strand Theater in 1929 with 1,800 seats, according to local historian Sam Ashworth. It closed in 1959. It was remodelled 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 has been vacant since.

About the Author