02/22/05 — City Council hoping to rebuild Paramount

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City Council hoping to rebuild Paramount

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on February 22, 2005 2:35 PM

Goldsboro officials want to rebuild the Paramount Theater, possibly even saving and restoring its front wall, if it's not prohibitively expensive.

"We need to be committed to building it back on the same spot if it's at all possible," said Councilman Chuck Allen. "We can't afford to have that gap on Center Street."

"Amen, brother," added Mayor Al King.

Paramount Theater

News-Argus/Kaye Nesbit

City officials are gathering information on replacement costs for the 120-year-old theater, which was destroyed by a fire Saturday. The City Council began talking about its options Monday night.

Meanwhile, Chief Building Inspector Ed Cianfarra was trying to determine the best way to stabilize the burned-out structure. He said he plans to hire a demolition company to knock down the rear wall to about half its current height.

Structural engineers will be asked to look at surrounding buildings to determine if it would be safe to reopen them.

City Attorney Tim Finan told the council that the city should not allow southbound Center Street to reopen in front of the theater until officials are sure that the front wall will not collapse onto the road.

Officials have gotten some preliminary figures on rebuilding the theater. Barnhill Construction Co., which is building a similar theater elsewhere, quoted Cianfarra a price of $270 per square foot for a one-story theater.

It would be more expensive to rebuild the theater with a balcony, he added. The Paramount had 513 seats, including its balcony.

The city could collect up to $1 million from its insurance to tear down burned sections of the building and remove debris. The policy will also pay up to $923,000 for construction of a replacement.

Council members said they will rebuild if they can. Most said they are receiving phone calls from citizens with fond memories of the theater, which opened in 1884.

Council members repeatedly praised Fire Chief Bobby Greenfield and his firefighters for limiting the damage from the fire. They also thanked neighboring fire departments, the American Red Cross, Progress Energy, and others for their assistance.

Meanwhile, city officials believe the cause of the fire may never be known. It apparently started in the stage area, but the fire was so hot that it apparently destroyed any clues for investigators.

"It's burnt, it's toast, it's gone," Police Chief Tim Bell said.