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City OKs pacts for razing historic theater

Published: Wed, June 13, 2012 @ 12:00 a.m.

By David Skolnick



The board of control signed professional contracts as it moves closer to demolishing the former Paramount Theatre, except its facade, in the city’s downtown.

The board on Tuesday approved a $19,500 contract with Strollo Architects to have the Youngstown firm develop a plan to take down the 94-year-old building, except the front exterior.

“Not saving the facade isn’t up for discussion; it’s a matter of how to do it,” said Charles Shasho, deputy director of the city’s public-works department.

Also, the board — composed of the mayor, law director and finance director — agreed to hire Brownfield Restoration Group, a Canandaigua, N.Y., company, for $56,028 to supervise the building’s environmental cleanup and make sure the city is in compliance with Clean Ohio Revitalization Fund policies.

The city has an $803,490 Clean Ohio grant for the project. The city is paying $269,553 as its share of the project.

The work should start by the winter with a time line to be developed soon for its completion, Shasho said.

“The city will save and stabilize the facade, demolish the old structure, build a parking lot and then evaluate what can be done” with the property on West Federal and Hazel streets, Shasho said.

The Paramount Project committee is seeking to raise about $5.5 million to convert the site into an outdoor gathering space by 2016.

The dilapidated structure, in the heart of downtown, is in such bad shape that it’s not safe to go inside because of its structural condition and asbestos, Shasho 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.

The city purchased the structure for $80,000 in November 2010 from a company owned by Louis Frangos of Cleveland, a downtown Youngstown property owner.


1observant1(76 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

WOW!!! What is wrong with this picture?
The city, in their infinite wisdom, instead of condemning this unsafe dilapidated structure and insist that it be razed at the owner's expense, decided to buy it from their good buddy Frangos for $80,000. All this, under the guise of saving the facade for God only knows why.
They are spending a total of $1,172,543 of taxpayer money ($80,000 for the purchase, $19,500 for a demolition plan, $803,490 from the state, and $269,553 local share) to make a parking lot. Not just any parking lot. ITS A PARKING LOT WITH A FANCY ORNATE FACADE.

And then the coup de grace, the board of control wants to raise $5.5 million for a gathering place.

Just about every local government agency in this area is flat broke, crime is running rampant, schools are in fiscal watch and firing teachers, and these "pie-in-the sky" dreamers want to waste taxpayer money on this ridiculous project.

Where is the condemnation from the Vindy editorial staff?

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2johnyoung(241 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

Absolutely outrageous!

Youngstown pays $80,000 for a dilapidated building that isn't worth 10 cents and the previous owner walks away scot free. Then, they spend an additional $1 million of public money to convert the site into a parking lot!!! And then this goofball Sasho brags: "“Not saving the facade isn’t up for discussion; it’s a matter of how to do it.” If these people at the city of Youngstown were spending a private company's money in this way instead of ours, they would all be out of jobs.

I ask Mr. Skolnick to affix his thinking cap to the top of his head (yes, the other end David), and to follow up with the following questions of Youngstown's public officials.

1) Where is the city's $269,000 local share coming from? (I'll bet it's coming from water and wastewater funds, which means all rate payers are paying twice for this atrocity)

2) Prior to purchasing the building, what legal attempts did the city make to compel the previous owner Mr. Frangos to comply with laws requiring owners to remove such hazardous structures? (I'll bet the real answer is that the whole deal was just a ploy to provide Frangos with some working capital for his other downtown endeavors).

If we the people stand for such irresponsibility from our public officials we deserve to be taxed out of existence. I suggest that all Youngstown residents make their feelings known at the next election, and then hold these elected officials accountable!

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3hurrdurr(98 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

There is nothing impressive about the facade. Most people walking or driving by just think of it as another run-down building.

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4ytownredux(117 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

Historic significance not withstanding, you have to agree with the above posters about this waste of city and taxpayers money.

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5UticaShale(854 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

Observant and JohnYoung, here is one better for you two. Four houses on Fifth Ave., across from YSU are in housing court for bldg. code violations. The owner of the one structure (six plex) gets $80,000 and the City pays for demolition including asbestos removal for another $80,000 and dismisses the bldg. violation. The neighbor with the three houses, has the City demolish all three houses. The City takes the land for the asbestos and demolition costs and throws the property owner in jail for 100 days, for the minor misdmeanor of bldg. code violations even as they no longer existed.

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6city_resident(513 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

It's not like Mr. Frangos had $270k (if he were somehow able to get the matching funds from the state) laying around, let alone $1 milllion, to demolish the building himself.

If the city forced Mr. Frangos to do something with this building, it's unlikely that he would have been willing to negotiate the sale of the other properties the city needed to buy from him at that time. So, it was just easier to buy this property with those others, at the same time. I don't like how this happened either, but it was the easiest and fastest way to get things done.

Lastly, the Paramount Project committee, is a PRIVATE organization raising PRIVATE funds to create the gathering space.

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7johnyoung(241 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago


Please elucidate the elements of Mr. Skolnick's story that I did not properly comprehend.

Actually, city_resident's assertion that "if the city forced Mr. Frangos to do something with this building, it's unlikely that he would have been willing to negotiate the sale of the other properties the city needed to buy from him at that time" actually corroborates my point that the whole deal of purchasing the Paramount for $80,000 was about getting Mr. Frangos some working capital for other downtown deals at taxpayers' expense. Do you think that is a wise use of taxpayers' money when the city is severely deficient in providing so many basic services?

There are NO private funds involved in the acquisition, hazardous clean-up, demolition, or parking lot construction phases of the project. Why don't these organizations that are supposedly so civic-minded and interested in promoting insignificant pet projects at taxpayers' expense raise money for those phases? How about forking over 80k to buy the building, or possibly raise money to cover the 269k local share for demolition? Now that would demonstrate some real civic responsibility!

Face it folks, this is a REAL stinky deal! It simply can't be justified.

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8city_resident(513 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago


Per this article: http://www.vindy.com/news/2010/jun/29... the city bought this building, and was given the small lot I had in mind. I believe the city needed that other lot for the Hazel St. extension. But, if they gave Frangos a hard time on the Paramount building, I bet that other small lot would become very dear to Mr. Frangos.

I don't get how this is a "pet project at taxpayers' expense." If the city didn't buy the building, it would just continue to sit there, until there was a structural failure, and someone was hurt or killed. And, the cost to turn the whole site into a parking lot would have been about the same as what's being done now. The fact that there is a group that wants to do anything with the site is a bonus, IMO. I doubt the interest would be there at all, if the city weren't willing to work with them, and save the facade.

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9johnyoung(241 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago


How about the novel idea of requiring owners, in this case a developer with financial means, to be accountable for their own buildings? There are ample laws that the city may enforce in order to accomplish this, but chose not to in this case.

In your response, you conveniently forgot to answer my central question: If this is such a worthy project, why didn't the Paramount Project Committee start its fundraising campaign on the front end, and use part of the $5.5 million to pay for the costs of property acquisition and demolition?

You see, the problem is that the development of this space into an outdoor gathering spot is costing the city of Youngstown over a million dollars of public funds, and denying its citizens of resources that should be spent on safety services and infrastructure improvements.

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10city_resident(513 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

First, Frangos doesn't have the financial means. At least 2 of the buildings he is partial owner of, are listed as in foreclosure on the auditor's website. (the website can be out of date, so it's possible that they are no longer in foreclosure) Second, and this is just my own speculation, if the city made him bring the Paramount building into code compliance, he wouldn't have been willing to just give the city the other piece of property they wanted.

Trying to answer your question: The city was going to demolish the building anyway. Without any intervention, the city would have spent the same amount of money turning the site into another asphalt rectangle, further eroding the character of downtown. But, this group made it feasible for the city to save the facade, and gain an asset, with no additional tax dollars. (although, based on this article: http://www.vindy.com/news/2009/jun/05... the idea of saving the facade was already there, but with no projected use/user)

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11johnyoung(241 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

City Resident:

? ? ?

If I am ever on trial for murder, remind me not to hire you to defend me!

Your response makes absolutely NO sense. Although you are almost convincing me to feel sorry for poor poor Mr. Frangos and the boatload of public monies he's already wasted on his foreclosed properties. Only in Youngstown does it work that way.

In regard to the pieces of property the city needed for the Hazel Street relocation, they could have been acquired through eminent domain, the same way other properties were acquired for the project. Why was Frangos' properties handled differently?

(and by the way, you still did not answer the question about the Paramount Committee's unwillingness to buy into the project on the front end.)

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12city_resident(513 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago


I'm certainly not defending Mr. Frangos. Read my first comment here, and you'll see that I already stated that I didn't like the idea of the city buying the building from him. I guess I'm playing devil's advocate.

If the city did go for eminent domain on the other property, how long do you think that would have been dragged out, considering that it turns out Mr. Frangos wasn't as poor as he was making it seem?

I still don't get what your issue with the Paramount Project group is. From what I can tell, the city was already moving forward with demolition plans, when the group was formed. Do you think the city would cancel its plans, and wait for this group to raise the money to do it themselves? Considering how structurally deficient everyone says this building is, do you think that's a good idea?

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13johnyoung(241 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago


The building has been "structurally deficient" for at least the last 15 years. Why is there now such a sense of urgency to spend a million plus dollars on it?

As for eminent domain, there were a number of other properties acquired in that fashion for the Hazel Street project including the contentious Grenga property, without unduly delaying the project, so what is different about Frangos' properties? Government, in order to optimize accountability, should never operate in a 'quid pro quo' fashion, and that's exactly what's going on with this Paramount project. Frangos was enriched to the tune of $80,000 with the feeble excuse that the city needed a couple of little triangles of his property elsewhere. Each project should stand on its own. This intermingling of public funds and purposes may even violate state law, but that never stopped certain village idiots in Youngstown government before.

My issue is more with the project than the Paramount group. You see, I'd much rather my tax dollars be used for basic city services that benefit all residents than for pet projects like this one that benefit very few and enrich a private developer in the process.

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14UticaShale(854 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

Just like Youngstownbambootelegram and Jim Frank, the Vindy next should throw Youngstownunboardandraised of this site, he is another hater hiding behind a user name to throw mud at anyone he can.

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15UticaShale(854 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

@RustedHulk, Go to GoMarcellusshale.com amd you will see a site that promotes real stakeholders in our region and the "hits" are mindboggling. No, what you confuse as censorship, is many here censoring truth themselves by parlaying half truths and outright lies. You do this by being incognito. What the Vindy will be wise to do is mandate true identity here wherein all must stand by their name, education and accomplishments.
For instance, I'll reveal who I am if all here do the same and then let's duke it out.
BTW, prove for instance that I "abandoned" this region. I'll give you this, most likely my organization is invested more into this third world City than you and most here. And...I'll challenge you that we pay more taxes than you and most here as well. But the Trolls here will never accept this, they are trained to demonize when knowledge and facts eludes them.

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16UticaShale(854 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

Whats the matter Rustedhole, your whole world is closing in around you, not many more blog sites you can hide in as an icognito megalomaniac, afraid to be banned again here in your little world of fiction?
Your days seem numbered here as you and your ilk surely experience eviction. No, Mr. SMALL, only those who have a name to be proud of will remain on the internet as it advances. Purveyors of radicalism and their brood are becoming more outcast online as you are already in the community. What name will you hide behind next?

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