03/05/06 — Paramount - What's next?

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Paramount - What's next?

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on March 5, 2006 2:14 AM

Members of the Paramount Reconstruction Committee said they could have planned to rebuild the theater for less than the estimated $12 million, but the money saved wouldn't be worth it.

Committee chairman Chuck Allen said he understands that some Goldsboro residents are wary of the cost. In fact, so is he.

"It's a lot of money," he said. "Hey, it scares me. And right now, we don't know how, or if, we're going to be able to pay for it."

But he added cutting expenditures out of the plan would only create more problems. And if the price tag came down too much, the new Paramount wouldn't be the type of theater the committee and city councilmen envision.

"We could have done it for 6, 7, 8 million dollars or whatever, but then it wouldn't have been a performing arts theater," Allen said. "It would have been an auditorium, and this council wanted a performing arts theater."

When the original Paramount burned down, Allen and others hoped to fast track the reconstruction project at a relatively low cost. The problem was, the extras that would be required to get a performing arts center are adding up.

"Early on, even myself, I believed you could rebuild the Paramount for $5 or 6 million," he said. "I had no idea that it would end up looking like the projected $12 million."

But all of the expenses are still necessary to do the job right, he said.

"If you built a less expensive building, you'd have a shell with nothing in it," he said. "A lot of the cost is the equipment. It's the lights and sound equipment, the stuff you'll never even see."

City Manager Joe Huffman agreed with Allen and added the Paramount was part of a larger vision, a revitalization downtown that will spread across the city -- one that will turn heads and attract businesses and out-of-towners to Goldsboro.

"We're trying to revitalize it down here (downtown), so that it radiates out," he said. "One of the things we're doing is building a dream. We're going to do this. We're going to do stuff. Things are going to happen. You can have your cake and eat it, too, just not all at the same time."

Huffman added completion of the three-phase city hall project could help make projects like the Paramount possible.

"You create the kind of excitement and investment in your community that generates extra tax money and makes some of these more expensive projects do-able," he said. "People believe in it and say, 'my goodness, the city is the place to be and this downtown is going to be the most beautiful place in Wayne County and in this part of the state. We will support it, we will do and we're going to turn this thing around.'"

Still, both Huffman and Allen realize that there is work to do before their dream becomes a reality. And they hear and accept concerns and criticisms from city and county residents.

"We know there are people who say that if you build a theater, you're only dealing with a small percentage of the population," Allen said.

Even still, Huffman believes that along with the critics are people who are enthusiastic about a $12 million Paramount. After all, he has witnessed support for it in large numbers -- both on the morning the theater burned and a few weeks ago.

"When I stood out there the morning it was burning and there were people of all ages sitting there with tears in their eyes watching it burn, they obviously cared," he said. "And I was at a performance my daughters were in. And during the final performance of 'Grease' they went up there and there were some emotional comments made. They actually took the old Stagestruck sign down and dedicated it. There were hundreds of people in that audience, and every one of them absolutely believed in it."

Allen added whether you're for the project or against it, nothing is set in stone at this point. For now, it's a vision, a dream -- and nothing more.

"We still don't have enough information on the Paramount. And that's why we haven't said much publicly about it. I don't want to say something unless I know that what I say is something we can do. And at this point, there's just a lot to do. The big issue is how to fund it."

Some community residents have already stepped up to assist with raising the money for the Paramount project. Several thousand dollars were raised at a Holiday Homes Tour and oyster roast in December, and just a couple weeks ago, a benefit Valentine's Day concert was held as well as an auction that alone raised $4,000. Organizers have not yet finished totalling the proceeds from the concert.