LAKE WORTH, Fla. - Call it history in the making.
The old casino building at Lake Worth Beach, built in 1922 and rebuilt to its current squarish shape following a 1947 hurricane, is being gutted by excavating machines to make way for a $6 million renovation.
"This is an emotional moment," resident Lynn Anderson said Thursday as she watched excavating machines turn the former landmark dining room of John G's restaurant into mounds of concrete, wood paneling and twisted steel.
The casino building is being gutted, but not torn down.
The Morganti Group, the contractor overseeing the casino renovation, plans to tear down much of the old building but leave supporting structures intact.
"We've been waiting for it a long time," said Ashley Samsel, a server at Benny's on the Beach restaurant, which will remain open during the casino and beach-site renovations.
Samsel said she saw renderings by REG Architects showing what the renovated casino building will look like, with arched walkway covers, a second-floor terrace where visitors will be able to look out over the ocean and a domed tower at the northeast corner.
"If it looks like what's in the picture, it will be really nice," Samsel said.
City officials have been discussing the casino renovation for 30 years. Work on the building is scheduled to be complete in May. Restaurants and shops are expected to build out their spaces after that, leading to an anticipated reopening of the casino in the fall of 2012.
"It's a historic moment for Lake Worth to see this project come to fruition," Vice Mayor Suzanne Mulvehill said. "It's a key project for economic development and revitalization in Lake Worth."