Demolition began today of the long-vacant medical building and theater on the north end of Northgate Mall in North Seattle.

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Remember the Northgate Theater, the Red Robin hamburger joint at Northgate Mall?

They’re coming down. Demolition began today to tear down the buildings on that northwest corner of the venerable shopping center, built in 1950, and generally considered the world’s first regional mall.

The old buildings will become part of a “lifestyle village” with outdoor seating, that’ll include a Barnes & Noble, a steakhouse and a bread store, along the lines of the University Village, the latest trend in malls.

The Northgate Theater, a 1,500-seater with a Native-American motif that opened in 1951, was the first shopping center movie theater ever built, according to, a Web site about old movie palaces. The cavernous building even included a crying room for babies. In recent years, it was deteriorating, with broken seats and mildew on its walls.

The buildings on that corner, with a footprint of 60,000 square feet, which also included a medical center, will be demolished by the end of the year, said Don Sims, project manager for William Dickson Co., of Tacoma.

It was contracted for the demolition by the owners of the mall, the Simon Property Group, of Indianapolis, which owns 296 malls across the country.

The mall will stay open during construction. It’s been almost two decades since former owner DeBartolo Property Management first tried to expand the mall, stymied over the years by environmental laws and neighborhood protests against traffic.

Additional plans include turning five acres of asphalt into green space and added landscaping.