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Plan to restore landmark Paramount facade in jeopardy

Published: Sun, September 9, 2012 @ 12:01 a.m.




A preliminary inspection of the former Paramount Theatre shows the front of the dilapidated building isn’t strong enough to stand on its own once the rest of the structure is demolished.

And if the front of the downtown structure cannot be saved, the Paramount Project, a group seeking to turn the property into an amphitheater and outdoor gathering space, may walk away from that proposal.

It likely would cost $900,000 to $1.2 million to secure and save the front of the building, said Rodney Lamberson, executive vice president and a principal with Strollo Architects. The city hired Strollo to develop a plan to take down the 94-year-old building on the corner of West Federal and Hazel streets while attempting to save the front portion.

There is no guarantee that the building’s front can be saved when the rest of the structure is demolished, said Mayor Charles Sammarone and Lamberson.

“I was initially optimistic it could be saved, but after reading the report, it’s discouraging,” Lamberson said. “It’s in a lot worse shape than I expected.”

A report from Centric Engineering, a New Waterford company hired by Strollo for a preliminary site assessment of the building, states: “If the main theater walls were demolished, this would leave no means for the front facade structure to resist wind loading.”

The only chance to save the front would be to erect steel support beams either inside or outside the building while the rest of the structure is demolished, Lamberson said.

“It would be extremely costly and difficult to construct,” Centric’s report states about the beams. Also, “the demolition method selected would need to minimize vibration transfer to the facade structure to reduce the chance of facade pieces being dislodged and break[ing] off,” the report states.

An additional study will be done to determine if the front can be saved, and the cost of saving it if it’s possible, Lamberson said.

“Over the last 10 to 12 years, the building has deteriorated considerably,” he said. “A decision will have to be made to determine if it’s worth [saving], and then someone would have to come up with the money.”

The follow-up study should be done in about a month, Sammarone said.

If money is needed to preserve the facade, it won’t come from the city’s coffers, the mayor said.

“We can’t afford that,” Sammarone said. “If [the Paramount Project] can raise that type of money, OK. But we don’t have the money to save it.”

Also, Sammarone said, there’s no guarantee that an effort to save the building’s facade would work, as the exterior is in such poor condition it could crumble.

“We’d like to see it saved and have the money to do it,” he said. “But if I had $1.2 million, I’d put it into demolition. That building is dangerous. That’s why we want it down. If the report says it’s a 50-50 shot, would you be willing to spend the money on it?”

Michael Morley, co-organizer of the Paramount Project with his wife, Anita Lin, urged the mayor not to rush a decision.

“That is an important historical structure to downtown,” he said. “Our hope is the city and professionals at least try to hire a firm to determine conclusively if [saving the front] is possible and to not act in haste because of the importance of the building.”

The committee wants to raise about $4 million over three to five years to use the front portion for a small restaurant and office space, install a covering over the top of the outdoor gathering space and use the site for events.

When asked if the project would be scrapped if the front can’t be saved, Morley said: “I don’t know. It would change the vision. We want to assess the enthusiasm of the committee before deciding whether to move ahead with raising money to put an amphitheater there. We want to make major improvements to the front to restore it to its original grandeur.”

The former theater is filled with asbestos and structurally unsafe, said Charles Shasho, deputy director of the city’s public works department.

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 up to $269,553 for the project. After demolition, the site would be a parking lot for those paying water and wastewater bills at the nearby city hall.

The city bought the theater for $80,000 in November 2010 from Lou Frangos, a downtown property owner.

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.

Meanwhile, Sammarone said he wants the Youngstown Central Area Community Improvement Corp., a downtown property development organization, to improve the site of the former State Theater on West Federal Street. The CIC demolished that building in 2008, leaving a very large hole and erecting a metal fence.

“I want a plan to fill in the hole and take the fence down,” Sammarone said. “There’s a lot of development around what is the worst-looking property on the street. Fill the hole. Plant grass.”

The city or local contractors can provide dirt or stone at no cost to fill in the hole, Shasho said.


1southsidedave(5199 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

Another Youngstown landmark and childhood memory soon be remembered only in photos and conversations around the dinner table.... ;~{

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2pj(80 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago


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3Lifes2Short(3882 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

Look how nice everyone was dressed to go see a movie.

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4drpautot(70 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

A part of the south side, known as Foster ville was once home to a theater, we only now see xxx rated movies there now. It astounds me when i still see the whole tear down a building put a parking lot philosophy getting its way. Here's a thought, Get YSU involved!

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5Spiderlegs(161 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

I think UticaShale is right. The community is beyond its limit as to who it can bail out, and the issue of how to raise money to save the school district is not resolved. A historic theater facade is nice, but if we set a list of priorities, it is not at the top. I can see YSU stepping to the plate to save some buildings, but it has to be something mutually beneficial to college and community, and this project isn't.

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6gordy850(22 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

Sadly, this building needs to be torn down immediately, someone is going to be hurt or killed by falling debris. It is beyond repair and the city can't afford to be liable any longer. As to what is happening to Youngstown, the city and all the surrounding communities have been in decline ever since the steel industry closed down. Please don't pay a consultant to perform another study on that issue, what we need are several smaller industries that can replace a basic job core, which will stimulate other smaller support type businesses. These should be diverse type businesses. We were all working at the various steel mills, and then when they closed, we all were without jobs, with no diversity in the job market. We have to start thinking, what can we do for a job base in Youngstown, that no other part of the country can as good as we can do it, that is where you begin with your ideas, and go from that thought you go forward.

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7kensgirl(1067 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

How sad. I guess we have our memories guys. We will never have what we once had and this upcoming generation doesn't want to hear about our memories. Idora, McKelveys, Strouss, and now the Paramount. Like the saying goes "Don't cry because it's over, be happy it was".

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8sue(179 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

I thought the Paramount Project was very cool.
If it is not structuraly stable, can the the building be taken down and a new reproduction facade be built at a much cheaper cost?

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9city_resident(528 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

"What about preserving part of the building as well as the facade , so as to give the facade strength ?"

I believe that was the plan. Look at the aerial of the theater on Google; it's my understanding they were going to save everything south of the curved wall.

"Some of the Paramount's ground level building elements , including the verandah
could surely be adaptively reused or recreated at much less cost .
Other methods could be to rebuild a facsimile facade afterward using modern materials at much lower cost than preserving the existing crumbling edifice ."

It's also my opinion that it's still probably cheaper (or equal, at best) to save and reinforce what's there, than to build a new building that looks like what is there. Also, from what I've heard about other projects, it's unlikely that they would be able to save much of the terracotta elements for reuse. The old terracotta tends to crumble while being removed.

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10endthismess(464 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

speaking of t-shirts.....ditch this "outside interest, downtown residential renter, politicallly funded and supported "Defend Youngstown" t-shirt shop....along with his locally stocked, locally donated, consignment, attic and garage sale goodies which the supposed owner is peddling for cash to suport his "shrew info page". If the city starts allowing these little 6 month ovenight failures and over priced t-shirt shops to spring up again....the city will go right back to where the hippes left off in 1977 when the mills started closing down....and all that was left to be sold downtown was flea market stuff from China, pirated local store fixtures and left over gargae sale junk. Then comes the showcase of all the boarded up store fronts from the "GOB" t-shirt and junk shops. And for Pete's sake.... can someone please keep "Mr.Bolt The Negative Upright" off the local TV and out of the newspaper. All "Bolt" does is cut and paste previously locally produced news pieces from 27 and 33 news. Then he post someone else's (who no doubt is union member) work on his FB page.... like he's working for CNN or FOX, and he has scored a "get" of 'BREAKING YOUNSTOWN NEWS" for the world to view. The real topper is when "Bolt" must beat his old broken down barnicled snare drum and spew his negative t-shirt name nonsense all around town, like he's really from Youngstown, is a grand historian and knows what's been going on here for the last 75 years. Downtown needs quality, productive, postive, fresh venues so it can continue to grow in an enterprising way.

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11howardinyoungstown(591 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

How about removing all of the ceramic tiles from the facade first. Then demolish the structure. and then build a new facade designed to stand on its own and install the ceramic tiles on to this new safe structure.

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12greene(167 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

It wouln't hurt the Lemon Drop to put in a T.V..

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13JoeFromHubbard(1817 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

I see that there are a lot of nostalgia buffs here...that's fine. If these old buildings are to be preserved, in whole or part, the preservation should be funded strictly with private money.

Youngstown has one of the highest city income tax rates in Ohio and is still struggling financially. It can ill afford to be in the business of preserving of old buildings. Old roads should take priority if there is money "to spend."

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14georgejeanie(1543 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

Get over it! Bulldoze the thing and get on with your lives. Why didn't the city get on this guy to maintain the building in the first place? He lets it go and then the taxpayer is left holding the bill, buying the building then having to get rid of the asbestos and the other debris. What an operation this dumbocratic community is. A lot of people lining their pockets at the expense of the few taxpayers left in the city. Come to thinkj of it the city probably is either getting the money from the state taxpayers or federal taxpayers

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15DSquared(1788 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

Geez, I 'm glad there's no other pressing issues in the city! How about spending money on something that actually matters.

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16JoeFromHubbard(1817 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago


> >the city probably is either getting the money from the state taxpayers or federal taxpayers< <

Years ago I postulated the theorem stating that the further one is removed from the earning of income, the more readily one spends it.

All government entities generally confiscate money in the form of taxes. Some is borrowed through bond issues, the interest payment upon which comes from tax revenue.

Since this is "unearned money" it is easy to spend foolishly.

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17DontBanThisDrone(1046 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

There's no money left over to do anything because it all goes for payroll.


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18mzofsa(1 comment)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

If anyone has ever played with toy blocks they know that a tall wall will not stand on it's own - seriously - I never imagined the facade without some type of bracing structure behind it! How can this be a surprise? Isolating this area from the demolition of the rest of the building would be costly but the demolition has to be by skilled personnel as there are other buildings that could be affected as well if care is not taken to dismantle the remaining building properly. But probably the dumbest thing said in this article is the comment from the city engineer stating that contractors could dump stone or dirt into the hole left by the state theater demolition for free. Having been in the construction industry for over 34 years - I have never seen a contractor do anything for free. And it isn't just a matter of dumping material into the hole - the material needs to meet a certain size criteria so there will be no voids for it to sink because water filters the finer material to the bottom! The material should be placed in lifts and then the fill needs to be tested at certain intervals to make sure it is meeting acceptable standards for either grass, parking, or buildings - and the criteria is not the same for any of these. And certain materials are not acceptable for fill. It takes common sense, experience and a little creative thinking to solve most problems!

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19city_resident(528 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

@ mzofsa, the central portion of the Warren Harding High School facade was saved in a similar manner to what is being proposed for the Paramount facade. And, there was minimal bracing there; mostly done with light gauge metal studs.

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20HSG(187 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

I am so encouraged by what I see in downtown Youngstown these days, namely people!! But seriously, it's the businesses, restaurants, traffic, apartments, etc. It is great to see a little hustle and bustle again!
I hope they can find a way to keep the facade of the theater, they may have to swap new materials for old, but at the very least there should be a structure there that is reflective of the character the original building possessed in it's heyday.
While they're at it, can someone start removing the awful-looking white VINYL siding from the building on Federal street?? Please?

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