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City OKs pacts for razing historic theater


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

By David Skolnick

skolnick@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

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.


Comments

1ytownredux(117 comments)posted 4 years 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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2city_resident(528 comments)posted 4 years 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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3city_resident(528 comments)posted 4 years ago

johnyoung,

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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4city_resident(528 comments)posted 4 years 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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5city_resident(528 comments)posted 4 years ago

johnyoung,

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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6georgejeanie(1487 comments)posted 4 years ago

Dumbocrats in charge means bad decisions. obviously no business sense beccause it is not their money. If you Youngstown idiots would have a 2 party system maybe, just maybe you would have half a chance to succeed, and actually get something for your tax dollars. Frangos probably payed somebody under the table for this sweetheart deal.

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