04/02/06 — Curtain call for Paramount? - It's not over yet

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Curtain call for Paramount? - It's not over yet

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on April 2, 2006 10:07 AM

The house lights have dimmed and the crowd has dissipated, but Goldsboro Mayor Al King says dreams of a new Paramount Theater are far from shattered.

Friday, King said Paramount Reconstruction Committee chairman Chuck Allen was "dead wrong" when he told committee members Wednesday that the project was no longer a high priority of the city council.

"The death of the Paramount was premature," he said.

It's true, he added, that a plan to fund a $12 to $15 million theater isn't there, but many officials and residents are still working to find a way to pull a less expensive project off.

"Twelve million may be out of the picture, but a Paramount Theater isn't," King said. "If we can get that figure down to $6 million, we can make it work. I respect the $12 million figure but I have professionals who tell me we can do it for much less."

Downtown Goldsboro Development Corp. executive director Julie Thompson said if the city reinforces the building's facade, the project would be eligible for nearly $1 million in tax credits. Add another million from the insurance payout, and you have a start, King said.

"If we plan to rebuild, and I assure you we do, we need to secure that facade to get that money," he said. "If we don't, we will be wasting an opportunity."

Allen was simply wrong, King added, when he said the majority of council members wanted to tear the facade down and halt spending on the Paramount altogether.

"We agreed as a last resort that we would tear the facade down," he said. "But we haven't reached that point yet. I have talked to some of these individuals (city councilmen) about this and they feel the same way I do."

King added that nothing involving the reconstruction project has changed, despite what Allen told committee members Wednesday.

"The Paramount is still in the top five on our (City Council's) priorities list," he said. "That hasn't changed."

Some committee members were as disturbed as he was with the discussion held at the meeting, King said. And that's a sign the project is still alive -- that people still want to make the Paramount dream a reality.

"The project is not dead," King said. "I'm still sitting here. And as long as I'm sitting here, it's not over."

A serious discussion between council members is needed, he added, to clear up the confusion and to reach an agreement on the project's future.

"It's not official until we vote, and we haven't done that yet," he said. "I haven't called for a vote yet, and I won't until the City Council holds a discussion. What I want to do is get our council together to sit down for the express purpose of discussing the Paramount. We have not used all of our resources yet. They haven't been exhausted."

And for King, going to such great lengths for the project is the right thing to do, he said. After all, it's the Paramount. And those who say it was just some building used by a select few are "just plain wrong," he said.

"The Paramount represents, to many people, Goldsboro," King said. "Then there are people who think it's just for Stagestruck or the arts, but it's not. Those people just don't understand. When you think about everyone who has used it, it covers the waterfront -- the rich, the poor, the white and the black, the dancers, actors, school children, jazz musicians and everyone else."

It is a place worth fighting for, he said.

"What went wrong, I don't know," King said. "But we still have work to do."

As for the result of Wednesday's meeting, sometimes it takes a challenge to find the true meaning of a project, he added.

"You know, as dark clouds roll in above you, you find that sometimes, the light of truth will shine through, and you'll find your solution," King said.

Until that solution is found, residents who have invested time and interest in the project should continue their efforts, he added.

"I don't want to discourage people," King said. "How do you think these people feel after all the effort they have made? They read about the meeting and thought it was the kiss of death. And that's what bothers me. Well, I want those people to know that it's not over until it's over, and it's far from over."