NILES, Ohio (WKBN) – Some people in Niles are questioning the decision to demolish what was the Robins Theater on Main Street downtown. They point to how Warren redeveloped its Robins Theatre and how Niles should do the same. But, Niles Mayor Steve Mientkiewicz is defending his decision to demolish and to prove his point.
On Thursday, Mientkiewicz walked us through what’s left of the Robins Theater, which included the buckets used to catch rainwater.
“As you can see, 50 or so bins and buckets that are completely full and overflowing,” he said.
We spent time in what was the balcony of the 90-year-old theater where a few of the original seats remain, though not in good enough shape to save. The plaster was peeling. There were holes in the roof. The floor was actually a ceiling installed in the 1970s to create offices below, where all signs of a theater are gone.
“So you know, when people comment that they would like to restore the theater, there is no theater, and there hasn’t been a theater in here since it closed in the late ’60s,” Mientkiewicz said.
Still visible were the upper parts of the openings for the screen and a fireplace. On the ceiling was what may have been a mural.
Mientkiewicz is fully aware of the success of Warren’s Robins Theatre.
“You had a private investor with deep pockets willing to take a shot at that. People in Niles, developers, had 50-plus years to take a shot at this building and they have not,” he said.
A few of the chairs, along with a projector, will be on display at the McKinley Museum. Also, the vases atop the facade will be used as part of the Urban Entertainment District that will replace the theater and adjacent Reisman’s building after demolition.
Mientkiewicz is not second-guessing his decision on demolition.
“It’s going to take a fortune of money, of funding to, even if it’s possible, to retrofit this, to bring this up to code and to restore it into the point it was back in the ’50s and ’60s,” he said.
As of Thursday morning, all the asbestos had been removed. Demolition should start in about two weeks.
Eighty percent of the $500,000 needed to demolish the theater is coming from Ohio’s new Building Demolition and Site Revitalization Program, with Niles paying the other 20%.