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Demolition Plan

The Lyric Theater on Park Street is coming down, despite protests

Daniel D’Ambrosio

March 29, 2010

Hartford building official Michael Fuschi did not like what he saw nearly two weeks ago when he inspected the Lyric Theater on Broad Street. The situation called for emergency measures.?

“It is my opinion that The Lyric Theater is in imminent danger of internal collapse,” wrote Fuschi in an e-mail to city officials. “Portions of the roof are open to the elements and 5”-thick sections of the roof deck are breaking and coming down 10-60ft in height to the floor below.”

?Fuschi ordered the immediate demolition of the theater, which began this past weekend when a large orange excavator reduced the theater to a pile of twisted metal beams and jumbled bricks. The clean-up will continue at least into this coming weekend, but in the meantime, the theater’s entrance, around the corner at 585 Park St., left intact for now, was put on life support, destined for further assessment once the demolition of the theater is complete. ?

Fuschi said 585 Park, adorned with a large mural and paintings in its windows, may be able to be salvaged, but it will take a structural engineer to make that call.

?It’s a sad end for a Park Street institution that many hoped would become a Latino cultural center and a new Park Street branch for the public library.

?City Councilman Luis Cotto, who was a consultant more than 10 years ago to developers who hoped to salvage the Lyric — abandoned since the 1970s — is frustrated that the $235,000 or so required to save the city-owned building never materialized, but the $92,000 required to tear it down was made available.

?“No one can tell me we didn’t have the money,” says Cotto. “In the past 10 years we had to have $235,000. What it looks like to me is that [the theater] was not a priority.”

?But Edison Silva, acting administrative operations manager in the city’s Development Services, said the $235,000 would have merely secured the roof of the building. It would have taken up to $1 million to actually save it, money the city simply did not have. A private developer would have had to step forward.?

“Everybody was hoping somebody would do something with [the theater],” says Silva. “But especially in these hard times it’s difficult to put together a package.”?

Cotto is also concerned the city council didn’t know about the demolition ahead of time. Twitter-users and bloggers vibrated briefly with messages to “Save the Lyric Theater!” but by the time that was happening there was no way to stop the excavator. Cotto himself found out about the planned demolition from Twitter.

?“In this case, nothing could be done, but at least we would have been able to talk to people,” says Cotto. “One thing that needs to happen is when those e-mails go out [to city officials] they should [copy] the corresponding chair of whatever committee on the city council is concerned.”

?If it turns out that 585 Park St. also has to come down, Cotto is concerned that Park Street will be left with a gaping hole in its storefronts. And the view through what will become an empty lot will be of a juvenile detention facility on Broad Street.?

“Nobody wants that building to come down,” says Cotto. “I’m moving forward to see what we can do to save it. If it comes down it will be a horribly sad day in the city of Hartford.”

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Advocate.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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