Demolition has started at Crown House in Elizabeth Street, Corby, to make way for a planned eight-screen Vue cinema and restaurants.
Jim Lockhart, 86, of nearby East Avenue, has been watching from his bedroom window as the office block starts to come down.
He has taken a special interest in the demolition as he was one of the scores of construction workers who built the office block in 1971.
He said: “It seems strange to see it being demolished after all these years. It was part of my life.”
Town centre owner Helical Bar plans to build the cinema and four restaurants on the site of Crown House, the multi-storey car park and part of Market Walk.
A planning application for the £10m scheme, which will create jobs and transform the shopping centre, are expected to be lodged with Corby Council this week.
It is hoped the Crown House site will be cleared and prepared by Christmas and, if planning permission is approved, the new Vue cinema would be built and open for business early in 2015.
Mr Lockhart worked as a joiner on Crown House for a wage of £19 a week.
The building was part of a £2.25m extension to the town centre which also included a cinema, flats and shops, as well as the underground bus station.
Mr Lockhart said: “I was a shop steward on the site and it was at the time when new health and safety regulations were being brought in.
“I used to go to Leicester two days a week to learn about the new regulations.
“In the winter the area we were working on was covered in snow and it was decided it was too risky to work and the men walked out.
“An official from the Transport and General Workers Union came up from London and after talks with the management the dispute was all settled within two or three days.
“More than 40 years ago I was helping to build Crown House and now I’m watching it coming down, which is a little sad.
“I’ve seen so many changes in the town centre over the years and now it’s being transformed again.”