03/22/05 — Paramount on fast track, says Council

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Paramount on fast track, says Council

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on March 22, 2005 1:47 PM

The lights of the Paramount Theater won't be dimmed long, members of the Goldsboro City Council said Monday night.

The council appointed a nine-member committee to come up with a plan for rebuilding the burned-out theater.

"We're putting this on the fast track," Mayor Al King said.

Their efforts could get a jump-start from the N.C. General Assembly. State Sen. John Kerr has introduced legislation to give the project $1 million. His bill is now before the N.C. Senate committee that is working on its version of the state's 2005-06 budget.

"It's going to be a long shot," Kerr said this morning. "The budget's very tight and we're going to need some help ... but this bill at least will let us be at the table."

City officials have said the project could cost more than $6 million. It will be up to the theater reconstruction committee to come up with firmer numbers.

The committee's members will be councilmen Chuck Allen, Jimmy Bryan and Don Chatman; City Manager Joe Huffman; Recreation Director Neil Bartlett; Julie Thompson of the Downtown Goldsboro Development Corporation; Brenda Baldwin, representing Stage Struck; Henry Weil, who helped lead the Paramount's renovation 15 years ago; and Carroll Overton, a member of the Community Building's Board of Trustees.

The council had considered appointing as many as 20 people but decided a smaller group would move quicker.

"This is going to be a very intense working committee," Allen said, adding that other people and groups will be recruited to help with subcommittees.

The City Council did not set a meeting schedule, but the committee is expected to be convened soon.

"We need to move as quickly as we can and get started," Bryan said. "The timing is important."

Built in 1882, the Paramount was originally known as the Armory Building and was home for several businesses. A theater section, originally called the Mason Theater, was added in the 1920s. For years, the Paramount was the city's premier movie house.

It closed in the mid-1980s, but a renovation campaign, led by the Weil family, began in 1991 and resulted in the theater reopening. In 1993, the Paramount was deeded to the city.

The theater was booked nearly 80 percent of weekends in recent years.

Fire officials were unable to determine the cause of the Feb. 19 fire.