03/30/05 — Rebuilding the Paramount on Center Street is committee's goal

View Archive

Rebuilding the Paramount on Center Street is committee's goal

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on March 30, 2005 1:48 PM

Bigger, better and back on Center Street -- that was the goal of the Paramount Theater Committee as it convened this morning.

Appointed last week by the Goldsboro City Council, the committee wants to move quickly to reconstruct the burned-out theater on the same location and acquire more land to add lobby space, restrooms and backstage areas. Committee members agreed to seek architects who are qualified and interested in working on the project.

"Whether it's $1 million or $4 million, the City Council is committed to putting the Paramount back," said Councilman Chuck Allen, who was chosen as the committee's chairman. "If it gets to be $7 million, then we'll have to talk about it."

The committee agreed on some general goals.

The new Paramount will need 500 to 600 seats, committee members said. The old theater could seat 536 people. That seating capacity filled a niche in the Wayne County area's cultural and entertainment community, said city Recreation Director Neil Bartlett. Over the past two years, the Paramount was booked for 80 percent of its available dates, he said.

Even that figure doesn't reveal the true value of the old theater, said Brenda Baldwin of the theater group Stagestruck. There were many times, she said, when more than one organization wanted to use the building at the same time.

"We basically fought over time in the Paramount," Baldwin said.

The theater needs to be better designed, committee members said. It needs a larger lobby with concession areas. More rest rooms are needed, as are dressing rooms and a real orchestra pit.

The backstage area needs to be as large as the area in front of the curtains, Mrs. Baldwin said. "We need at least equal square footage."

City Councilman Jimmy Bryan asked if a practice stage was needed.

"We need to shoot for the moon," Bryan said. "We can always tone it down later as we need to."

Over the next month, Bartlett said he plans to contact many of the groups that have booked the Paramount in the past and get their input about their needs.

Committee members said they would prefer to hire an architect with both theater experience and a background in historical preservation.

The City Council had wanted to preserve the front facade of the building, but committee members acknowledged that it may be cheaper to build a new front that duplicates the original.

The plans will likely require the city to buy additional land. The first target will be the office of Phoenix Construction next door, which was heavily damaged during the fire, but the committee may also be looking at the Wayne County Republican Party Headquarters and an adjacent gas station.

The landowners have already been approached and are at least willing to listen to the committee's plans, said Julie Thompson of the Downtown Goldsboro Development Corporation.

The committee feels the price tag for a new theater might be in the $3-4 million range.

The city received $1 million in replacement funds from its insurance company, plus N.C. Sen. John Kerr is seeking a $1 million for the project in next year's state budget. City officials have also asked U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield about possible federal funding.

The committee is anticipating a public fund-raising campaign. Henry Weil, who led a similar campaign 15 years ago for the theater's renovation, said he feels comfortable setting a $500,000 goal.

The other committee members are Councilman Don Chatman, City Manager Joe Huffman, and Carroll Overton, a member of the Community Building's Board of Trustees. The committee set its next meeting for Wednesday, May 4.