City takes action to demolish old theater

By David Skolnick

YOUNGSTOWN — The city took a first step toward demolishing a former downtown theater that is falling apart and has been vacant for more than 30 years.

The board of control Thursday approved a $21,377 contract for MS Consultants Inc. of Youngstown to conduct an environmental and asbestos assessment of the former Paramount Theatre at 138 W. Federal St. near Hazel Street.

The report will determine the cost for abating and demolishing the building. City Finance Director David Bozanich estimates the cost at between $700,000 and $1 million.

The city plans to seek state funding for the project with the hope that the theater would be demolished sometime next year, Bozanich said.

The plan would be to keep the facade at the 91-year-old theater intact and use the rest of the property for a parking lot and/or outdoor amphitheater, Bozanich said.

The 9,510-square-foot building is boarded up, Bozanich said, but bricks and other pieces of the structure fall down at times.

“There is a public-safety issue,” he said.

To restore it as a theater would cost about $10 million, Bozanich said.

The building opened in 1918 as the Liberty Theater and reopened about 10 years later as the Paramount. It closed more than 30 years ago.

Louis Frangos of Cleveland, who owns several downtown properties, is the building’s majority owner. He purchased it with Grande Venues of Chicago in April 2006 for $79,900.

American Tax Funding has a tax lien of the theater property as well as two other buildings owned by Frangos — the Stambaugh Building, 44 E. Federal St., and the Harshman Building, 101 E. Boardman St.

Frangos also is delinquent on paying taxes on the Erie Terminal, 112 W. Commerce St., and the Plaza Parking Deck, 16 N. Champion St.

Frangos couldn’t be reached Thursday by The Vindicator to comment.

He has said he’s agreeable to working with the city to demolish the theater. As for his tax issues, Frangos has said that when Mahoning County reassessed properties two years ago, it raised his taxes higher than he believed they’re worth, and he is disputing those increases.

Also Thursday, the board of control agreed to a one-year lease for 160 “Stinger” devices — similar to Tasers — for its police officers. The lease costs $24,000.

The board also voted to purchase $30,240 worth of related equipment such as holsters, training cartridges, training manuals and live-cartridge replacements from the Standard Law Enforcement Co. of Willoughby.

Standard Law Enforcement trained six Youngstown police supervisors, who will then train the rest of the department on how to use the devices, Police Chief Jimmy Hughes said.

The training will take one or two days, and the officers will start carrying the Stingers in a few weeks, he said.

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