05/05/05 — Committee: Paramount facade might have to go

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Committee: Paramount facade might have to go

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on May 5, 2005 1:50 PM

The Paramount Theater Committee plans to begin interviewing architects within two weeks to plan for the reconstruction.

Meanwhile, the demolition crew has had to halt some work inside the burned-out theater because of fears the front wall could become unstable and collapse.

Ed Cianfarra, the city's chief inspector, told the committee Wednesday the bracing on Center Street will prevent the wall from falling that way.

But if demolition was to continue on the second and third floors, the wall could tumble inward. The mortar between the bricks is already powdery and flaking because of vibrations from the demolition, even though most of the work is being done by hand.

"If we had any bad weather over the weekend, we could easily drive up Monday morning and find that the wall had blown in," Cianfarra said.

The committee asked the crew to confine its work to the back of the theater to ensure the front facade survives long enough for the architects to see it. But it's becoming increasingly unlikely the original wall will be a part of the rebuilt theater.

"If the engineers say that it's unstable, I don't see that we have any choice but to tear it down," said Councilman Chuck Allen, the committee's chairman.

The architects might want to widen the theater or reorient it, added Neil Bartlett, the city's recreation director. A new facade on Center Street could pay tribute to the original design without exactly duplicating it, he added.

Bartlett presented the committee with proposals from seven architectural firms with experience in theaters that are interested in the project.

The committee agreed to interview three of them: Pearce Brinkley Cease & Lee of Raleigh, Dunn & Dalton Architects of Kinston and Lord Aeck & Sargant Inc. of Chapel Hill. Each of the firms will be asked to come the week of May 16-20 to meet with committee members and to discuss the project and possible fees.

Those three firms are the front-runners, but the committee did not rule out interviewing others, particularly if the interviews do not go as planned.

The committee hopes to keep the project in the $3-4 million range. A public fund-raising campaign is planned later this year.

The Paramount was destroyed by an early-morning fire Feb. 19. Officials were unable to determine the cause.