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Part of theater to be demolished

DULUTH -- The Duluth City Council on Monday awarded a contract to demolish part of the end of the Red Clay Theatre on Main Street to make way for improvements to Ga. Highway 120.

The contact was awarded to Abatech Services of Snellville in the amount of $31,500.

The demolition work is scheduled to begin next week and to be completed in 21 days to reduce the inconvenience to merchants and motorists, according to Duluth Economic Development Manager Chris McGahee.

"The city will still be open for business" while the work is being done, he said.

Abatech will tarp and weatherproof the open end of the building, McGahee said. If necessary, another company will be hired to erect a temporary emergency wall to stabilize the structure at a yet undetermined cost, he said.

The council's action initiates Phase One of a three-phase proposal to demolish, renovate and enhance the theatre located in downtown Duluth.

Phase Two includes selective demolition of the remaining old portion of the theater, removing several layers of leaking roofs, installing a new roof, and stabilizing the flooring. This phase also involves exposing and preserving as much original architecture as possible.

During last September's heavy rains and flooding, the old part of the theatre suffered water damage and was subsequently attacked by mold and mildew. The City Council originally thought it would have to demolish more of the old portion.

But after being assessed by a team composed of McGahee along with a structural engineer, an architect, and a construction expert, it was determined the old section could be salvaged and renovated.

Phase Three proposes installing a marquee, creating a "jewel box" entrance and adding a plaza, which would make the theatre visible from Ga. 120 and Buford Highway and create more awareness for the performing arts venue.

The theater, which opened in 2006, was renovated from the former Calvary Christian Church. The new part of the building containing the stage and seating would remain intact.

The project is slated to be paid for by the Duluth Downtown Development Authority, FEMA flood damage funds, SPLOST monies, and possibly community fundraising efforts.

In other action, the council:

* Awarded a four-year contract to provide solid waste disposal services in the city to Republic Services. The council plans to consider a company to provide leaf and yard debris removal on an additional basis.

* Granted the contract for construction of restroom/ concession facilities at Scott Hudgens Park to Burrson Construction Group, the low bidder at $213,610.

* Instructed the city administrator to execute an agreement with the Duluth Fine Arts League to oversee design and installation of the Living Honorarium, previously called the Living Memorial. The City Council will retain final approval over the project.

* Approved a list of city-sponsored events for 2010.

During a brief work session that preceded the council meeting, Mayor Nancy Harris recognized contributions by Cliff Cross, former Duluth planning director, who resigned March 20 to return to Kankakee, Ill., where he previously worked. Cross will serve as executive director of Kankakee's Community Development Agency and as that city's director of planning.

Senior Planner Chris Collins has been named acting director of planning for Duluth.