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City to fully demolish Paramount Theatre

Published: Tue, December 4, 2012 @ 12:05 a.m.

By Denise Dick



With costs to save the front portion prohibitive, the city has taken steps to demolish the entire Paramount Theatre.

“We made the decision a couple of weeks ago to prepare specifications to proceed with full demolition,” said Charles Shasho, the city’s deputy director of public works.

The city had been exploring the possibility of taking down the 94-year-old downtown building but saving the facade.

But a report from Atlantic Engineering Services, a consulting structural engineering firm with an office in Pittsburgh, found that it would cost between $1.3 million and $1.6 million just to secure the facade during demolition of the remainder of the building.

That doesn’t include any cost to make the front portion of the building habitable, Shasho said.

“The city can’t afford to do that,” said Mayor Charles Sammarone. “We have problems in our neighborhoods with demolition. There’s no way we could take that money to demolish it.”

A preliminary inspection earlier this year determined the front of the building, on the corner of West Federal and Hazel streets, couldn’t be saved, but recommended a more-detailed study. It said that the front of the dilapidated building isn’t strong enough to stand on its own once the rest of the structure is demolished.

Rodney Lamberson, executive vice president and a principal with Strollo Architects, the Youngstown company developing a plan for the building demolition, said measures to save the facade called for exterior supports around the building while demolition occurred.

City officials have said the building, at the corner of West Federal and Hazel streets, is unsafe and filled with asbestos.

The city received an $803,490 grant from the state in July 2011 for the demolition, with the expectation that the facade would remain, and will pay about $269,553 for the project. After demolition, the site would be a parking lot for those paying water and waste- water bills at city hall.

Sammarone said the price tag is so high largely due to the asbestos.

“Companies won’t even go inside the place,” he said. “That’s how bad it is.”

Anita Lin, chairwoman of the Paramount Project, the group that wanted to save the building facade and create an amphi- theater, said members were unable to raise the $1.4 million the city said it would need to preserve the front of the structure. Their deadline was Jan. 2, she said.

While she said the group would have liked a longer time line, she appreciates the mayor’s support of the project.

“It is a shame because the cityscape is going to be so changed,” Lin said.

With the restaurants and stores opening, that block is coming alive, she said.

The project has generated a lot of interest and support through social media and Lin believes there may be hope in the future for some scaled-back version of the group’s plan.

The mayor said that’s a possibility as well.

“In the future, if there’s money generated, we can build a replica of what they were talking about saving,” Sammarone said.

The building opened in 1918 as the Liberty Theatre for vaudeville acts and silent movies with a 1,700-seat auditorium featuring an aquarium and fountain in the lobby. It was sold in 1929 to Paramount Pictures and renamed the Paramount Theatre. It closed in 1976.


1islandgrump(59 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

To those of us who are lucky enough to have been in the theater, and remember her beauty it iis very sad. ;(( She brought so much enjoyment to so many people over the years. ;))

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2PhilKidd(189 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

Facade preservation or not, there should be NO PARKING SPACES allowed in footprint of the facade area. Period.

This is our main street in our downtown...not the parking lot of Olive Garden. I understand that the Gallagher Building (aka. Cedars Building) is going to be redeveloped and will need additional parking, however, the original plan included the preservation of the facade...so parking wasn't even an option in this space. It should remain that way. Fronting parking to W. Federal is wrong and not urban. And this is our main street.

The 20-25 foot footprint should include - at minimum - some green space with, perhaps, a few sitting benches and (hopefully) a historical marker for the theater. Downtown could use more of this, in general. There's no better place than this space.

Kudos to Anita Linn and the rest of the group who worked hard to do what they could. In my opinion, the group should remain together to ensure a good plan for the footprint of the facade is organized and executed.

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3dd933(312 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

How about some streetscaping and a couple of bocce courts on the Federal Street frontage?

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4republicanRick(1736 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

Just get the building down and cleaned up and then we can discuss what goes in there. Green space or parking, either is better than what's there now.

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5ytownredux(117 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

I have said this before, I really don;t think a parking lot is such a bad idea. I would hire a couple of muralists, to paint the two foundation walls of the buildings abutting the lot. I would then put some greenery and memorial plaque on the corner as Phil suggested. Then I would mark the parking spaces at least 8 feet wide and here is why....

The parking lot would only be open on the weekdays for the stated purpose of paying their bills at city hall or whatever. On the weekends, those parking spaces would be rented out for farmers market and craft vendors in the summer for the weekends. The 8 foot wide spaces would accomodate an 8' table to use as a fronting of each booth, and they can set up inside the lines. I would love to have a craft/farmers market there. If it gets big enough with enough interest, do the same to the parking lot behind the government center building across the street from Cedars. A parking lot does not have to be a bad thing if we can be creative and would be the most cost effective spending for the city.

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6whyyt(18 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

Way to go Youngstown! Typical. Just when I thought something right was being done, nope, we love our demolition. To remove that facade is ridiculous. This is your city's architectural and social history and it cannot be reproduced. For the mayor to say they'd build a replica is a farce--you can't rebuild something of quality like that building today. Youngstown doesn't look to other cities around the country and how historic preservation uplifts and revitalizes. Backwards town. And you've just confirmed it yet again. McKelvey's gone (ugly building that ignores the streetscape/street-life in its place), Strouss ruined by strip mall aesthetics inside. Cheesy bars lining Federal Street--way to go. No one has taste or a brain in that damn town. YOU HAVE HISTORY! YOU HAVE ARCHITECTURE! In other cities it'd be celebrated! It'd become a focal point for renaissance! Why is Youngstown so backwards? And YSU--tearing down historic homes and buildings all over the place. Shame, and ignorance. My god, wake up Youngstown! Please, Youngstowners with means--create a coalition and fund to save (at least) the facade! Create a viable and public space, not a parking lot, not a replica. What makes downtowns unique?--not parking lots, and not just (mostly) lackluster bars. Please, wake up! For your own sake. Get it together already.

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7mlamar(12 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

Still remember seeing the "The Bridge over the River Kwai" there in mid to late sixties. This was the place to watch the latest "Blaxploitation" and Karate flicks. From Pam Grier's "Coffee" series to everything Bruce Lee starred in......Thanks for the memories.....

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8rk(1 comment)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

The old Palace is a parking lot...now the
Paramount will become the same. At least YTown is being consistent in character...What about the State Theater...probably next...
But then again recreating 'old YTown' as a
stage set is not what Historic Preservation is about. Visiting surrounding cities such as
Salem, Akron, etc; do show how it can be done.

I guess we need to give every school child a
history book on what YTown was once...

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9Silence_Dogood(1677 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

Its a rundown piece of junk building , tear it down , plow it under , and build a dang parking lot.
Get over yourself Phil.

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10whyyt(18 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

Build a parking lot--well that's Youngstown know-how at its best. City was something once, now it's a joke. So sad. Have only ignorant people to blame. Place turns my stomach (but the beauty of it, the history of it is there, it's real, and if the damn city had a brain it'd use it to its advantage). The whole world is trying to emulate Brooklyn (no, not Youngstown). Here a small city with a wealth of architecture and a sense of place (do you know what place means? It's not a parking lot), just throws it away. Always two decades behind the times. Poor, sad town. Shame. Total shame. No wonder folks leave it for real cities.

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11dd933(312 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

We did keep the facade of the old State Theater and what a beauty it is to gaze upon. Why don't people that hate a place so much just leave? So many who love this city and this valley have been forced to leave - we've just seen how folks who transfered out with GM have jumped at the chance to move back. Yes we are poor (one of the poorest cities in the nation) but sad, we're no sadder than other places I have been. We really have very much going for us. Sad is when you want something you don't have. Happy is when you accept life the way it is - we're not Brooklyn - is that the way we want to be measured?
My brother was an usher at the Paramount, (he lives in Nevada now) I remember seeing The Great White Hope and Finnian's Rainbow there....

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