02/23/05 — Crew begins removing shaky Paramount wall

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Crew begins removing shaky Paramount wall

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on February 23, 2005 2:14 PM

A construction crew began tearing down the rear wall of the Paramount Theater today in an effort to stabilize it.

But city officials still do not know what else might have to be demolished as a result of Saturday's fire.

A-K Grading & Demolition, of LaGrange, began removing the top of the wall this morning. Plans were to take it down to about half its height to prevent it from collapsing totally, said Ed Cianfarra, the city's chief inspector.

But the city is still days away from knowing whether it will have to bring down the front wall, he said today. Structural engineers will be brought in to evaluate it and determine whether it should be allowed to stay up.

City fire officials value the loss at $1.1 million. Assistant Fire Chief Gary Whaley said this morning that the theater was valued at $1 million and its contents at $100,000.

A separate crew of engineers will be asked to evaluate Phoenix Construction's building to the south of the theater and the Orander and Riley law firm's offices to the north. Both businesses have been displaced, although they were allowed to go back into their buildings Tuesday and remove items.

"We gave them as much time as they needed," Cianfarra said.

Phoenix's building seemingly had significant structural damage, Cianfarra told the council Monday. It may ultimately to be condemned, but the engineers' report is needed first.

The city had also closed the Wayne County Republican Party's headquarters, adjacent to Phoenix's building, but the GOP was allowed to reopen Tuesday afternoon.

"We got back in there last night and held precinct meetings," said Ed Wharton, the party's chairman. "It was a little smoky-smelling but tolerable."

The southbound lane of Center Street will remain closed until the city is sure the theater's front wall will not collapse.

State Bureau of Investigation special agents and Goldsboro police investigators could not determine a cause for the fire that struck the 123-year-old building at 139 S. Center St.