08/12/05 — City: No tax hike to fund theater

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City: No tax hike to fund theater

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on August 12, 2005 1:49 PM

Goldsboro officials say plans to rebuild the Paramount Theater or construct a new facility in its place can't advance until they learn how much money can be obtained through grants or government incentive programs.

City Manager Joe Huffman told members of the Paramount Committee Thursday that the city will not raise taxes to come up with the necessary money. Architects have told city officials that a new theater would cost more than $10 million.

The historic Center Street structure was destroyed by fire in February, and city officials are wrestling with plans to either rebuild it or construct a similar facility to accommodate public gatherings.

City Councilman Chuck Allen said city officials need to meet with state tax incentive experts to find out what money might be available for the proposed project. There are two tax incentive programs the city could pursue. One is a historic building tax credit, and the other is a new market tax incentive.

"The tax credit issues need to be resolved," Allen said. "We need to see what we can get and how cumbersome the process to get it will be."

David Francis, an architect with Pearce, Brinkley, Cease + Lee, the Raleigh firm hired to help design a new building, said he has talked with an expert on tax credits and that the news has not been encouraging.

"I got the impression he didn't feel he could bring enough money to the project," Francis said.

There are two other historic buildings behind the theater that could qualify for the tax credits, he said, but the money could only be spent to rehabilitate those buildings, not the theater.

Committee member Carroll Overton asked if it would be possible to obtain historic tax credits for the Paramount facade.

"Or would you have to rebuild the whole theater as it was?" he asked.

Francis said he wasn't sure, and suggested city officials meet with state officials regarding the possible tax credits available.

He said competition for money through the new market-tax incentive program is high. And the costs associated with getting the money can cut deeply into the funding, he said.

"There are fees from brokerage firms, lawyers, and others," he said. "Everyone's got a hand in it all the way down. You'll end up with about 25 cents on the dollar."

At the meeting, architects presented several preliminary designs for a new theater to the committee. Each of the proposals include a 500-seat auditorium, stage area, dressing rooms, lobby space, office space, outdoor courtyards and a rehearsal hall that could double as a meeting room.

Committee members agreed that no design decisions can be made until the method of funding is determined.

Huffman said he will meet with tax incentive experts within the next few weeks to learn more about the funding possibilities.