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Making way for progress

Photo by Nate McCullough

Photo by Nate McCullough

DULUTH -- Downtown Duluth got a new look Monday.

A portion of the Red Clay Theatre was demolished in preparation for the widening of Ga. Highway 120, said Chris McGahee, Duluth's economic development manager. The old portion of the building sustained damage in last year's flood and had been closed to the public since October. The new section of the building containing the stage and seating remains intact and open.

"The 130-year-old storefronts that are just gorgeous have been hidden by the great wall of China," McGahee said. "Now, the town's 130-year-old historic center is now open."

A small section of the old building, which houses the theater's bathrooms, is still standing. The building was constructed in 1908 and is the last remaining legacy of the early rail history of Duluth, McGahee said.

Originally a cotton warehouse platform, the building was actually a series of storefronts hidden behind a brick facade. The city-owned building was scheduled to be torn down because of the impending improvements to Ga. Highway 120, McGahee said.

The debris from the demolition will be removed this week, and sod will be installed, McGahee said.

"By Friday, it should be a grassy area," McGahee said. "This project has been needed for a long time."

The improvements to Ga. Highway 120 include reworking the railroad crossing and installing a traffic light. The project will take about three years to complete and is funded by a voter-approved special purpose local option sales tax.

Although one lane of Main Street in front of the theater is temporarily closed, the demolition has improved visibility at the intersection, making it immediately safer for motorists, McGahee said.