03/05/06 — Paramount - Some not sure they want new arts center

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Paramount - Some not sure they want new arts center

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on March 5, 2006 2:12 AM

A recreation center, community swimming pool, soup kitchen or homeless shelter -- anything but a new Paramount Theater.

When Goldsboro City Council members listed reconstruction of the Paramount as a priority project, a new wrinkle in an ongoing debate was born.

While some city residents say they look forward to a spacious and glamorous theater downtown, others are not keen on the idea of rebuilding the historic landmark for more than 10 times its original worth.

Tommy Matthews has never lived what he calls a "big city life," but he sees Goldsboro moving in that direction. He was raised in Elizabeth City and currently lives in the southern end of Wayne County.

"This is the perfect life out here," he said. "And Goldsboro is a great city. The only problem is that people are trying to turn it into Raleigh."

Matthews, 63, said that kind of life doesn't appeal to him.

"It's too fast-paced," he said. "You put a $12 million theater downtown, and that's what will happen. Goldsboro will speed up and us older folks won't have the same life."

Matthews added if he had his way, the projected $12 million for a new Paramount would be spent "in the interest of everyone."

"We should build a community center or swimming facility for the kids," he said. "Or maybe a shelter for our homeless. Even a statue dedicated to the Seymour Johnson people would be better than a new Paramount, and I used to go there."

Other residents also said it wouldn't be difficult to find a way to better spend $12 million.

Teresa Bailey said she would rather see big dollars spent on projects and programs aimed at improving the lives of low-income families in Goldsboro.

"The council should consider building a soup kitchen," she said. "The Paramount was a lovely building, but nothing can bring it back. Keep the great memories and spirit we gained there by giving back to the community."

Still, there are those who say they want to see a large, glamorous Paramount built right on Center Street -- expensive lights hanging from a vaulted ceiling in the lobby, a flashy red curtain.

Construction worker Collin Lee said projects like the new City Hall and Paramount are natural progressions all cities must take to achieve a prosperous future.

"The Paramount could be a place where in 50 years, kids could come with their parents and see what this council did for Goldsboro," he said. "Sure, it's a lot of money, but if you don't set high standards, this city will crumble. Without the base and these expensive buildings and a new downtown, it would probably be an undesirable place to live when our grandchildren are working."

Still, Matthews said people come to Goldsboro and Wayne County for a taste of small-town life. When he moved here more than a decade ago, he said he never expected to see small places like Wayne County and Goldsboro spend such high amounts for projects he feels benefits only high society.

"All the councils and politicians are well-off," he said. "But this isn't just their city, their county. It belongs to all of us. It's a humble place, small and slow, but it's just the way we want it to be."