Demolition of the former Rolling Acres Mall has begun.

As an excavator and a Bobcat were slowly picking away at the shops between the former Sears and Dillard’s department stores in the southwest corner of the Akron mall on Friday, Cristina Morrow and her partner, Cayden Horvath, stood outside the fence and watched.

“It’s crazy how bad it got,” Horvath, 33, of Akron, said of the once flourishing mall.

“It’s more sad than anything,” Morrow, 26, said. “It just withered away to nothing. This needed to happen.”

Morrow and Horvath remembered their childhoods at the mall.

“Every Sunday, my grandma, Violet Bender, and a bunch of cousins would come here,” Morrow said. “We’d go to Target, then go have lunch in the food court and we’d mosey around.”

The city of Akron became the owner of the interior of the mall on Romig Road and about 50 acres around it in June after Summit County foreclosed on the mall owner following eight years of legal maneuvering.

The inside of Rolling Acres closed in 2008 when electricity was about to be turned off for nonpayment. A man was electrocuted in 2011 when he attempted to steal copper wiring.

The mall had been in decline for years before it closed.

Crews from Eslich Wrecking Co. of Louisville are completing the demolition.

But don’t expect any dramatic use of wrecking balls or dynamite.

“It’s a slow process. They pick it apart,” said Brad Beckert, city development engineering manager in the mayor’s Office of Economic Development.

The city is also going “green” for as much of the demolition as possible, Beckert said. The steel will be recycled and the concrete will be crushed and put into the lower-level basement of the former mall, he said.

There are four former department stores now owned privately with businesses occupying the space that need to be preserved. The former J.C. Penney building has been donated to the city by the retailer and will be demolished.

Crews need to separate the former department stores from the main building, Beckert said. That will happen last. Eslich crews successfully separated and demolished the former Stage Left building next to the Akron Civic Theatre earlier this year.

The demolition itself will probably take three weeks, but Beckert anticipates it will take eight to 10 weeks to finish the job.

Barry Barbera, owner of the nearby Gatsby’s gentleman’s club in what used to be a Perkins restaurant, said while it was sad to see the mall come down, it was necessary.

“It’s not good when you have a vacant structure sitting here and undesirable people coming around who shouldn’t be around here,” said Barbera as he watched the crews working.

The onlookers all said they hoped whatever new development comes to the area will create jobs.

Beckert said the site is secure and police are enforcing it. The city appreciates people not coming to watch the demolition, he said.

Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or blinfisher@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her @blinfisherABJ  on Twitter or www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ and see all her stories at www.ohio.com/betty.