12/13/05 — Some question Paramount's cost

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Some question Paramount's cost

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on December 13, 2005 1:51 PM

Danny Douglass said he fears he and his grandchildren will likely have drastically different memories of Goldsboro's Paramount Theater -- his fond, theirs tainted by its cost and impracticality.

With the cost of reconstruction projected to reach as much as $12 million, Douglass said the once-beloved theater will lose part of the simplicity that was its hallmark.

"This is getting out of control," he said. "We loved the Paramount because of its beauty and for its history, but also for its modesty. A $12 million building just won't feel right in its place."

Inside Paramount

News-Argus/Mitch Loeber

The rear of the Paramount facade shows that there is a lot of work to do before there will be another theater in downtown Goldsboro. What some residents are wondering is just how much the community should spend to make that reconstruction a reality.

Current plans include consideration of the purchase of property around the old building to facilitate a larger structure and a bigger parking area, officials said.

Douglass, 63, said he sees a problem with calling anything short of a replica located on the burned building's footprint, "The Paramount."

Other city residents see problems with plans for reconstruction as well. Don Wilkerson said spending $12 million to rebuild the theater would benefit a relative few.

"The main idea is to spend our community money in ways that will serve a much larger number of Goldsboro and Wayne County families," he said. "There is no excuse for spending $12 million on that project."

Wilkerson suggested that, instead, money could be allocated to other projects like a new animal shelter, planetarium or recreation center or even renovation of the vacant Litchfield Theaters.

He said the project as it is planned would also take years to complete.

"We need something more functional, more immediate and something that people outside of the arts community can use," Wilkerson said. "We should do something that serves the whole community and not just a slice of it."

Another problem, he said, is raising the money needed for the project, adding that donations for the Paramount will take away from other projects, needy organizations and good causes.

"The more people donate to a multimillion dollar fundraiser for the Paramount, the less there is for places like Lighthouse," Wilkerson said. "There are still hungry families in Wayne County, battered women and the elderly can always use help."

Paramount Reconstruction Committee Chairman Chuck Allen said the project is still in the early planning stage, and that the community will have more opportunities to weigh in on the final plans.

"It's still too early to tell exactly what the project is going to cost, or what it's gonna look like," he said.

While no plans for the new Paramount have been drawn, little money has been raised and ideas continue to float around, Allen said the committee hopes the building will provide both a performing arts center and large meeting space for the community.

Allen added the committee has received support from residents and that many, including himself, feel the project will greatly benefit Goldsboro.

"I think the bulk of our community are in favor of it," he said. "And I think it will be an asset to downtown."

Others, including Wilkerson, see the Paramount reconstruction project as a guise for high-class downtown development and not a way to bring back a sentimental piece of Goldsboro history.

"They (city officials) were looking for a reason to spend that kind of money downtown and then the Paramount burned down," Wilkerson said. "And now they have an excuse."