CLEVELAND (WJW) — After sitting vacant for decades, the former Cleveland Aquarium along the Shoreway in Gordon Park South is being demolished.

The aquarium was once a top destination for local families, but over the years, the building became an eyesore and it is now being torn down by the Cleveland Metroparks as part of a plan to open up the lakefront.

The aquarium opened in 1954 and then closed in 1985 due to structural issues with the building. But many Clevelanders still have fond memories of the complex.

“I can tell you there’s a lot of stories like, ‘I got engaged there,’ one of the gentlemen told me. I told him, ‘I’ll save you a brick,'” Cleveland Metroparks CEO Brian Zimmerman told FOX 8 News. “I mean there is so much history here — rich history — so we want to be respectful of that.”

After the aquarium was shut down, the site was later used by Cleveland police as a training facility for among other things, police dogs. The building is now a decaying shell, and when the Metroparks acquired Gordon Park South from the city, opening up the green space at the park and tearing down the aquarium became top priorities.

“You know this is part of the past, and we really want to be able to move forward. One-hundred-seventeen-thousand cars drive by here every day. No one could explain to me why the pipe was laying out there in front that everybody could see. Graffiti had kind of taken over the place,” said Zimmerman.

The demolition is part of an ambitious master plan by the Metroparks to open up the lakefront to Northeast Ohioans and to eventually establish a walking and riding trail from East 9th Street to MLK Boulevard.

“We are a waterfront community and we should act like it, and we should really highlight those assets. This will be one of the next ones in the long history here in Cleveland,” said Zimmerman.

He added that Greater Clevelanders will ultimately decide what their lakefront and park land will look like.

“We do not have any preconceived notions about what will happen. But phase one was that this building was unsafe, this was untenable. We needed to make a mark that we are here and we’re moving forward,” Zimmerman said. “We want the community to support, really help evolve what this park will be: clean, green, safe. Move forward and then really have the community support.”

The demolition of the former aquarium complex is expected to take a couple of weeks to complete.