Final building in redevelopment area coming down |

Final building in redevelopment area coming down

After more than a month of unexpected delays, the only building left standing in the Park Avenue Redevelopment Project is finally coming down.

Demolition started Thursday on the old Stateline Cinema on Park Avenue near Van Sickle Road. Knock down was expected to be completed within a few hours and clean up may carry on over the next couple of days, said South Lake Tahoe City Manager David Childs.

“It’s good to have it come down,” he said. “It’s another small step in a long walk.”

The building was supposed to be leveled after May 25, when the city of South Lake Tahoe’s order for possession on the property went into effect.

But litigation filed by the building’s monthly tenant, Wallace Theater Corporation, caused the first delay in the demolition schedule. A federally protected bird slowed the process for a second time.

Wallace Theaters, which operated a one-screen movie theater in the building, filed a cross-compliant to the city of South Lake Tahoe’s eminent domain action, which it used to acquire the theater building and 12 other adjacent parcels in order to get the redevelopment ball rolling. Wallace also filed a motion to stay within the project area, claiming it had an interest in the property. The motion was denied by El Dorado County Superior Court Judge Suzanne Kingsbury on May 31, ruling that the theater company had no right in the property as a monthly tenant. The owners of the building, the Crescent V partners and the Van Sickle family have not contested the city’s taking of the property.

Just when the city was ready to plow the structure over in late May, area residents noticed that a pair of swallows, which are protected under federal law, had made the deserted green building their home.

Nests under the eaves could have housed eggs, which can’t be removed until after the fledglings have hatched. The city had to wait. About two weeks into it, the nests were mysteriously knocked down.

Cheryl Millham, of the Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care, had agreed to help the city with the birds but was cut short of her duty when the nests disappeared in mid-June.

“I don’t know what happened, nobody saw anything,” Millham said. “I don’t think it’s the people in charge of the project because they wouldn’t have waited all that time for the eggs to hatch and to set it up for me to check on the nests.”

Childs said the birds caused a greater delay than the legal action.

“The birds had about a two-week impact on the demolition,” Childs said. “We were ready to start tearing the building down last week but we thought it would be better to wait until the Fourth of July was over.”

Plans for the Park Avenue Project call for a multi-level parking garage and a new cinema complex to replace the old theater building.

That portion of the project is scheduled to begin next summer. More immediate plans include the construction of a posh hotel and a $35-million gondola that will connect the redevelopment site to Heavenly Ski Resort’s slopes, both to be built by American Skiing Company, parent company to Heavenly Ski Resort.

While the gondola project is in full swing, with construction in progress at the top station and working downhill, work on the Grand Summit Hotel is awaiting transfer of the title of the land.

Escrow was projected to close last week on the property, which is still in the hands of the city.

Both sides are working through a checklist of tasks before title is transferred for a $2 million developer’s fee.

“There’s a laundry list of items were plowing through at record speed,” said Lewis Feldman, attorney for the ASC. “I expect the transfer of title to occur in the foreseeable future as we’re working to get that stuff behind us.”

In the meantime, he said efforts are being concentrated on building the gondola, which is scheduled to open for business in December.

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