06/10/05 — Paramount price tag: 10 million dollars

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Paramount price tag: 10 million dollars

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on June 10, 2005 1:49 PM

The architects for a new Paramount Theater said Thursday that its construction could easily cost $10 million, roughly twice what the City Council had hoped to spend.

That estimate had the Paramount Theater Committee reconsidering its options, including eliminating balcony seating and/or reducing the overall number of seats.

City Councilman Chuck Allen also pitched another idea -- adding meeting rooms that would allow the Paramount to serve as a quasi-convention center. The city could then use some of its hotel-occupancy tax proceeds for the project, he said.

"In my opinion, we're not going to build a civic center for the next 10 years at least," Allen said. This could help feed the need for meeting space until then, he said.

The committee agreed that it wanted to give city residents and Paramount users a chance to talk with the architects. An open house will be held Thursday, June 23, beginning at 6 p.m., in the City Council's chambers on the second floor of Goldsboro City Hall on North Center Street.

Thursday's committee meeting was the first since it chose a Raleigh firm, Pearce Brinkley Cease + Lee, to design the replacement for the Paramount, which was destroyed by a fire in February.

Two of the firm's principal architects, Jeffrey Lee and Irving Pearce, came to the meeting to explain how they prefer to design a building. They expect to spend three to four months in the "predesign" phase.

"Architects want to jump in and start developing the building. This is painful to us because we have to hold back," Lee said.

But it's important first to hear everyone's ideas and expectations and develop a wish list, he said.

"Usually there's a lot more wish than there is budget, so we'll have to cut back," Lee said. "But we won't make those decisions. We'll guide you as you do."

The theater is likely to cost more than city officials had hoped. Lee and Pearce were involved with the design of Imperial Center Theater, a 313-seat facility that's being built by the city of Rocky Mount.

The city opened construction bids in May, and the low bid was $7.8 million, they said.

That theater was designed as economically as possible, Pearce said. "It was a budget-driven process."

That means the preliminary price tag for Goldsboro's project could be $10 million, he said.

The old Paramount had more than 500 seats, which the committee hopes to at least match. But the estimate caused some discussion of whether the city could get by with a 300-seat theater.

Brenda Baldwin, representing Stage Struck Theater for Young People, said that many of the local groups probably would be satisfied with fewer seats. Most productions did not sell out the Paramount, she noted.

But Allen argued that city officials should not scale back plans for the theater unless they are sure that a larger facility isn't needed.

"What are we going to need in 25 or 30 years?" he asked.

The architects asked the committee to compile information on the original theater, including any technical plans from a renovation done in the 1990s. The committee will reconvene next Thursday.