A former movie theater at the corner of Riverside Avenue and Main Street may be razed soon.
“It looks like hell,” said John Lodovico, one of seven members of the nonprofit Bristol Downtown Development Corp.
The 40-year-old structure most recently housed a paint store and a rental center, but it’s been empty for a year.
When the building is demolished in the new year, the 17-acre mall site will have only two structures left – the Discount Food Outlet grocery store and the McDonald’s, which actually owns its property.
A Dunkin’ Donuts on the north end of the site is likely to be included in any plan to overhaul the key downtown parcel.
The city bought the mall in 2005 for $5.3 million and hopes to see it developed for stores, offices and housing. But the BDDC’s effort to find a developer last summer led to only a single bidder that fell quickly by the wayside.
Dick Harrall, executive director of the downtown agency, said that an environmental review of the former theater found “nothing unusual.”
One hitch is that the building “serves almost as a retaining wall” at the corner because the land is lower at the corner than it is on most of the site.
It’s possible, though, that the building could be removed and the walls along the sidewalk could remain, officials said.
City Councilor Ken Cockayne said it’s possible that leaving the building standing might be the best option for now.
But John Leone, the president of the Greater Bristol Chamber of Commerce, said it would be best to take it down.
“It continues to send the message that we’re preparing the land for use,” Leone said.
“I’d rather see the building kaput,” said Dick Kallenbach, another member of the BDDC.
Jennifer Janelle, who also serves on the agency, said that the landscaping could also be left along the street when the building is knocked down.
For now, downtown officials said, they would like the city to pay more attention to the empty building.
Lodovico said that it looks abandoned.
Harrall said the city’s public works department is responsible for maintaining the property.
He said that maybe the BDDC should ask the city for an interim plan for using and caring for the structure.
It doesn’t appear the city has any immediate need to use the building, but it has in recent years. The police used it for many months as a kind of substation during the renovations of the police department.
But since the paint store moved out shortly after Ocean State Job Lot left the mall, there has been nothing there. The mall itself was knocked down last winter.
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
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