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Council questions theater-purchase deal



Published: Tue, June 29, 2010 @ 12:09 a.m.

photo

photo

The former Paramount Theatre

By DAVID SKOLNICK

skolnick@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

Despite pleas from the finance director, city council members don’t see why the city should buy the dilapidated former Paramount Theatre.

Also, some members of council asked Finance Director David Bozanich why they weren’t told until Monday about a side-deal with the building’s owner.

“Council is being asked to vote blindly; we knew nothing about this,” said Councilman DeMaine Kitchen, D-2nd, at Monday’s council finance committee meeting.

Bozanich recommends city council approve purchasing the long-vacant theater on the northeast corner of West Federal and North Hazel streets for $80,000.

Louis Frangos of Cleveland bought the 92-year-old building for $79,900 in April 2006 and has said he spent about $80,000 on the building.

As part of the Paramount deal, Frangos would give the city a small amount of property he owns on the southwest corner of a parking lot on North Hazel and Commerce streets at no cost, Bozanich said.

That corner is needed as part of the city’s Hazel Street extension project, said Bozanich, who added he found out about the need for that land about three weeks ago.

Bozanich apologized for not letting council members know about the side-deal until Monday. Although an appraisal of that corner isn’t done, Bozanich estimated the value of that land at $25,000 to $30,000.

Council refused to vote at its June 16 meeting in favor of buying the building. Nothing discussed at Monday’s meeting changed their minds.

If the city purchased the building, it would seek money from a state grant program to demolish it and keep the structure’s facade and metal-frame marquee, Bozanich said.

Bozanich estimated the cost Monday of removing asbestos and demolishing the building at $400,000 to $500,000. A month earlier, he had estimated that expense at $750,000.

Council members asked about the $80,000 Frangos said he spent on the Paramount after buying the building.

“There’s safety issues there for years and years and years,” said Councilman John R. Swierz, D-7th. “I don’t see where they put the money.”

In response, Bozanich said the money went into design plans to determine the viability of restoring the theater. The estimated cost of restoration is at least $10 million, he said.

“So no money went into the building in terms of taking care of the dangers and safety issues,” Kitchen said.

Council members complained that the city was bailing out Frangos and that buying the old theater would leave the city with a large liability.

The city “can clean it up, or we can tell the landlord to seal it off [and] board it up,” Bozanich said.

But the building is in the heart of downtown, and the city is the only entity that can actually do something with the property, he said.

That area would be used for free parking for people paying their water and wastewater bills at the nearby city hall.

Council members want Frangos to donate the small land he owns for the Hazel Street extension and to hold on to the theater building till the city can find grant money to take it down.

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

If he were Frangos, Bozanich said, he wouldn’t give the land to the city at no cost.


Comments

1author50(1121 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

Where would Gus Frangos be without taxpayers money?

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2palbubba(664 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

Is this huge expense and liability needed? How many people per day pay their water bill in person and need a parking place to do it? Could this parking lot end up being another perk for city hall employees? The purchase is totally unnecessary for a city that can't even pay to open one swimming pool for a couple of months.

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3FifthAve(168 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

Restore it. Find a beneficiary or several who have an interest in the history of theatre in this town and rebuild it to its original splendor.

To turn it into a parking lot is unbelievably insensitive to the history of Youngstown and the need to preserve it rather than destroy it.

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4steelwagon(284 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

I know the cost to restore this grand old building would be hugh but I think it should be saved .

Maybe a public effort could be made to raise the funds along with corporate sponsors and theater/arts guilds.

If we have any hope of bringing our cities back to life it's vital we preserve our history and build upon it.
Let's be realistic both the Youngstown/Warren area have little else to offer visitors.

Both cities do have a very rich history that could used as assets to attract out of town as well as local guests.

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5onthetown(254 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

Why would the city even consider paying money to take a massive liability off of Frangos' books?

Frangos invested in the property, and it was obviously a bad move. They've let the building remain in a dangerous state of disrepair - and it's their responsibility to do something about it, even if they take a loss. If you expect to profit on some of your ventures, don't expect taxpayers to clean up your losses. Judging by their vast catalog of properties in Cleveland and Youngstown, they should be able to take a loss here or there.

The city needs to take a hard stance on blighted/abandoned properties owned by corporations like Frangos - make them choose to pay for necessary improvements/repairs or forfeit their properties and pay demolition costs.

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6valleyred(1094 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

Tear it down. It is an eyesore and prohibiting our downtown from moving into the 21st century. It's a structural nightmare.

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7UnionForever(1470 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

Make Frangos tear it down or make the necessary repairs to bring it up to code. Not one penny of taxpayer money should be used to buy that building to take over this guy's business mistake.

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8sknirak(120 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

Maybe some al Quaida terrorists might pull an attack against this old theater and blow it up as a warning?

:>)

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