09/24/06 — It's final: Paramount, Community Building are a go

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It's final: Paramount, Community Building are a go

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on September 24, 2006 2:08 AM

The curtain fell Friday after Center Stage's production of "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" to thunderous appplause.

Two blocks away, the cheers were loud, too, but for a different curtain call.

Goldsboro is getting back its Paramount.

From the steps of the Wayne County Court House, Mayor Al King concluded the Downtown Goldsboro Development Corp.'s annual awards banquet by announcing the City Council's recent approval of a plan to rebuild both the Paramount Theater and Community Building.

"It is with great pride and excitement that I want to take this opportunity to announce that the Goldsboro City Council has decided to move forward with plans to rebuild the Community Center and partner with a non-profit organization led by Mr. David Weil for the purpose of rebuilding the Paramount Theater," he said.

Council members made the decision at their meeting Monday, King added, after a vote to move on property downtown -- the future site of the Community Building -- passed in closed session.

"As of today, the city has secured an option to purchase a major portion of the block surrounded by Center Street, Spruce Street, James Street and Chestnut Street -- the Dick Shirley Building and Budget Hotel properties," he said.

The Paramount will also stay downtown, King added, on the footprint of the old theater and the Phoenix Construction building.

Goldsboro businessman David Weil presented what he called a "doable plan" for reconstruction of the theater to City Council members Aug. 7.

After reviewing the high quality, low-cost design, officials charged Joe Huffman with figuring out how to fund the facility -- and a new community building. Huffman's funding options were presented at council's Aug. 21 meeting.

Each option was, in actuality, a breakdown showing the economic impact of different funding plans for the two projects. Included in each were answers to budget questions -- new revenue projections, debt services, potential funding sources, operating costs and expenses associated with construction of both facilities.

Huffman recommended council members consider proceeding with reconstruction of the Paramount during the 2007-08 fiscal year and hold off on construction of a community building until 2010.

Obviously, Huffman said Friday, there will no longer be a wait.

"Council wants to get started with both of these projects right now," he said.

While plans for the Community Building have yet to be formally presented, Weil's Paramount design is ready to go -- a state-of-the-art, 15,170-square-foot theater.

The final product is expected to look much the same as the original theater from the outside, Weil said, but the inside will look much different.

The plan features a revamped first floor, equipped with a box office, concession area and bathrooms, loading dock, control booth, seats and more -- not to mention a bigger stage and increased seat count.

The second floor also features a large lobby that looks down over the theater's entrance. A 142-seat balcony, bathrooms, storage space and lighting will also be housed on this floor.

The $5 million theater also will also include a control room, catwalk, lighting oval, office space, an elevator, fly space, a trap room, an orchestra pit and stairs leading to the second floor.

King said construction on both projects will begin "very soon."

"Maybe as soon as next week, you're going to be seeing a lot of things going on down on Center Street," he said. "I'm confident that with help, we can make this happen."

Still, King said he realizes that some residents will disagree with the city's latest move. But that doesn't mean he and other officials won't see it through.

"There are a few out there who might not like it," he said. "But to them, I say, 'get a life.'"

And he is convinced that completion of the two facilities will be the start of the next wave of progress downtown.

"These two buildings are going to change our downtown like you wouldn't believe," King said. "I can promise you now that five years from now, this downtown, you won't recognize it. I urge you to help in any way you can so we can realize our dream."