25th Street Theatre (copy)

ARC Abatement plans to start work next month removing asbestos and lead paint at the 25th Street Theatre building, an early step in the city's plan to turn the structure into a fire station.

As a kid growing up in North Waco, Ron Daniel beat a path to the 25th Street Theatre. He remembers cringing in fear as “Godzilla” screamed and raged in all his black-and-white fury on the big screen. He recalls sitting spellbound in the darkened movie house hundreds of times, taking in the latest releases “and everything John Wayne ever made.”

Daniel, 58, whose Waco-based ARC Abatement has gained a national presence, now will turn his attention to transforming the disused theater into a community asset. The city of Waco bought the crumbling structure at 1006 N. 25th St. in May with plans to move Fire Station No. 6 there.

“It’s a really neat project, and our crews will begin work around Dec. 1,” Daniel said.

He launched what would become ARC Abatement in 1990 in his garage. It now has more than 600 employees at seven regional offices, including three outside Texas, and $55 million in annual revenue. ARC crews remove asbestos, dismantle coal-fired power plants, clean up after hurricanes and other messes left by man and Mother Nature.

Involvement in the theater has special meaning, Daniel said. ARC submitted a $136,000 bid, the lowest of six, to remove asbestos and lead paint from the 1940s building. Waco City Council is set to approve the contract Tuesday.

When the city announced plans to buy the building, Fire Chief Bobby Tatum said it was unclear how much of the structure it would be possible to save, though he would like to at least keep the facade and the landmark theater sign.

The theater opened in 1945 with 780 seats, air conditioning, a wide screen and elaborate murals inside. It closed in 1982, bowing to multiscreen theaters, before becoming a popular nightclub several years. It fell into disrepair, the city tagged it as unsafe in 2001, and ownership disputes clouded title to the premises and stymied improvements until the city bought it.

Challenges abound, including a leaky roof that collapsed and pervasive asbestos, Daniel said.

“It’s a major cleanup that will take a month, maybe a month and a half,” he said of ARC’s role in the project.

Daniel’s brother, Mike Daniel, will oversee ARC’s participation.

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