03/08/05 — Center Street to be re-opened

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Center Street to be re-opened

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on March 8, 2005 1:58 PM

The south-bouth lanes of Center Street should reopen later this week, although they will be narrowed to one line of traffic in front of the Paramount Theater.

City workers will erect a chain link fence in front of the theater, which was heavily damaged in a fire last month.

The fence will extend into the street, but there should be enough room to allow one lane of southbound traffic and parking, Chief Inspector Ed Cianfarra told the City Council at a briefing Monday night.

"You need to reopen Center Street because you are killing business downtown," Councilman Chuck Allen said.

The street should reopen by Friday, Cianfarra said.

Southbound Center Street, between Walnut and Chestnut streets, has been closed since the fire on Saturday, Feb. 19.

The city had tried reopening a section of the block, in front of Maxway, but police responded to at least four accidents there. Motorists were trying to back up Center Street to turn around at Walnut Street.

Engineers have evaluated the theater's front wall and have recommended that it be braced, Cianfarra said. Those supports will be erected inside the fenced area.

The city has also received permission from its insurance company to begin the cleanup in earnest. It will be removing all the debris from inside the theater while preserving the walls.

A&K Grading of LaGrange, which has assisted with the salvage operation, could receive a contract to continue the cleanup.

The City Council will discuss its options for the theater, which include rebuilding it, during its retreat this week at Atlantic Beach.