Passersby in downtown Riverbank, either on Atchison/Highway 108 or Third Street, on Tuesday last week may have noticed the parking lot at the Del Rio Theatre buildings filled with construction – or, more aptly named – destruction vehicles.
A company from Stockton, W.C. Maloney, Inc., began stripping off the interior wallboards of both the large, two-and-a-half story auditorium and the one-story banquet rooms, restaurant/bar and storefronts next door.
Project supervisor George Majorado said the preliminary work, expected to be completed in about a week throughout, was needed to allow architects to inspect the existing infrastructure of the building.
By midday on the first day, the drop ceiling and many of the walls of the auditorium were being exposed, leaving clouds of dust and requiring workers to use face masks. Crumbled pieces of material were swept up, hauled outside, and loaded into a dumpster.
Similar work was being done in other rooms of the complex. In addition to the main auditorium, the large building contained storefronts on Third Street and upstairs offices on that west end of the building. The smaller building, to the north and fronting on Atchison Street, also housed two storefronts, banquet rooms, a bar, kitchen and the now-empty Del Rio Restaurant.
It is not known if there are plans to reuse the expansive oak bar, demolish it, or sell it off to someone who can use it elsewhere.
New owners are rumored to be planning a piano bar for the corner and a banquet hall for the theatre building, though nothing has been formalized.
It has been almost 10 years since the city, acting as the Riverbank Redevelopment Agency, gave up on rehabilitating the building it had purchased and voted to just tear it down. Shortly after, California Governor Jerry Brown took control of redevelopment agencies across the state, seizing their assets and available funds. He also acquired the agencies’ debts. All this time, the group set up to manage these assets has been seeking to sell. That finally has happened.
At first, the RDA allowed the Riverbank Community Theatre and Rio Arts both to use the Del Rio for productions, ranging from Oklahoma! and Bye, Bye Birdie to Miracle on 34th Street, with talent shows, dinner theater, gospel concerts and art shows thrown in.
Then, the building was condemned. Many of the support beams overhead were found to be unseated from their footings.
Contractor Majorado said he thought the architects would be designing steel pillars to be imbedded in the walls to re-seat the beam arches and hold them up.
He wasn’t able to guess about a possible timeline for the project, given the variables of what might be discovered inside the walls.