05/10/06 — Group will raise funds to rebuild Paramount

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Group will raise funds to rebuild Paramount

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on May 10, 2006 1:54 PM

Draw back the red curtain. It's showtime for the Paramount -- again.

Mayor Al King said a "group of private citizens" has taken over efforts to rebuild the historic theater, a little more than a month after Paramount Reconstruction Committee Chairman Chuck Allen said the project was no longer a high priority of City Council members. The citizens have asked to remain anonymous for now.

"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," Allen said at the March 29 meeting, adding "the community doesn't want it."

Some prominent members of the arts community called the news "devastating" and "shocking."

King said Allen's statements were "dead wrong," and that more people in the community care about the Paramount than some think.

And for the past month, he said many members of the community proved him right, showing that they are still behind reconstruction efforts with dozens of e-mails that raise questions about the project's "end", a petition to move forward with the project signed by hundreds of Wayne County schoolchildren and conversations about what's next for the downtown landmark.

"One reason they are stepping forward now is because of the statement that nobody cares," he said.

They all had one desire in common, King added -- construction of a new Paramount Theater. And not an extravagant, $12 million facility. They want something beautiful in its simplicity, he said -- like the old one.

And the group of citizens taking over the effort have the same idea, he said.

"They're basically looking at rebuilding the Paramount as it was," he said. "And in the same place."

King said the project will likely cost far less now, "probably less than half of the $12 million," adding there is a good chance the group will have some of the cost covered before fundraising efforts begin.

Downtown Goldsboro Development Corp. Executive Director Julie Thompson said if the council votes to spend $50,000 to $75,000 to secure the Paramount facade, the project will be eligible for close to $1 million in tax credits. Insurance funds total another $1 million, King said.

City officials have discussed rebuilding the theater, built in 1882, since it burned down Feb. 19, 2005. Within a week of the fire, council members vowed to "fast track" the project, but limited funds and a high estimated price tag slowed progress on reconstruction efforts.

While there is still no timetable for completion of the project, King said he hopes to have more news next month and that design and construction of the facility could begin within the next few months.

"The group still has some things they need to get together," he said. "But within the next few months, you're going to see some things going on down at the Paramount."

The progress made by this small group, King added, will give the public more stake in the project -- and it's "great for Goldsboro."

"I could not feel better about this," King said. "This is sort of a dream come true to me. It now becomes really ours. And it's truly a joint effort between the community and the city."