03/30/06 — Town reacts to news of project's end

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Town reacts to news of project's end

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on March 30, 2006 1:47 PM

There will be no new Paramount Theater any time soon, and the news is getting mixed reviews.

Paramount Reconstruction Committee chairman Chuck Allen broke the news at Wednesday's meeting, citing lack of funding and interest and higher priorities as reasons why the city is shelving the project.

Some members of the arts community, including Arts Council of Wayne County Director Alice Strickland, said the news is devastating.

"I was shocked that the decision had been arrived at abruptly," Mrs. Strickland said. "I was aware of the headlines last week about the Recreation Center, but I had no idea that the Paramount, or the performing arts center, was not even an option anymore."

Mrs. Strickland added the decision will hurt the arts community, especially for those already having difficulties finding a place to rehearse and perform.

"It's pretty devastating because the arts community has been scrambling trying to find places that were suitable and working around school schedules and community schedules and auditoriums that were already booked," she said. "They have had a very difficult year finding a place available for rehearsal and performance."

Now that the Paramount project has been shelved indefinitely, others feel performing arts in Wayne County will be worse off as a result.

"I think it's really going to hurt the performing arts in Wayne County if the city doesn't try to do something to build some sort of performing arts center," Sandra Evans said.

Mrs. Evans, president of Center Stage, said since the Paramount burned down last February, her organization and others have faced a constant struggle.

"We're all struggling to find locations where we can afford to have our performances," she said. "We don't want to see our organizations fall to the wayside because we don't have anywhere to perform."

The ballet will also continue to search for venues.

"This leaves the Goldsboro Ballet with the option of renting whatever we need to rent to meet our needs, whether it means the (Goldsboro) High School auditorium, Wayne Community College, or going outside the county," said Peggy Wingate, artistic director for the ballet.

Mrs. Wingate said smaller facilities mean limited performances.

"Right now, the high school (Goldsboro High) has bent over backwards to accommodate me, but (using it) means we will be adapting sets to smaller types of set (and) we can't rent any more backdrops because we don't have fly space in the theater," she said. "So, folks will see a modified background on our ballet right now. We're having to scale back and modify all of our ballets to the space we now have."

Though unpopular to some, Allen defended the decision to shelve the project to rebuild the historic theater.

"We know that we can't fund the Paramount," he said. "And we know that the City Council is not going to make this project a priority for at least two or three years. And by then, it may be an entirely different council."

Discussions involving a request to reinforce the Paramount's facade at an estimated cost of $50,000 to $75,000 triggered the announcement.

"The majority of the council has no interest in keeping that wall," Allen said. "They want the wall down."

Spending that money, he said, would be pointless without a plan to fund the entire project. Despite efforts from local organizations and the Downtown Goldsboro Development Corp. to raise a few hundred dollars here and there, a long-term plan just doesn't exist, he said.

DGDC executive director Julie Thompson disagreed. She said saving the facade could be worth close to $1 million. Spending the $50,000 to $75,000 to brace the facade now, makes Goldsboro eligible for $800,000 to $1 million in tax credits toward future work on reconstruction.

But Allen said the project is at a standstill and spending would be irresponsible.

"We can see no building going on in the foreseeable future," he said. "There's just no timetable for when we can begin work on this project."

Allen said the interest in the project just wasn't there. He said projects that will serve a greater percentage of the population must get top priority.

"The community doesn't want it (Paramount)," he said. "No. 1, we don't have the money. And No. 2, there's no big group out there, besides the arts, supporting this thing."