Youngstown hires company to consult on Paramount Theatre

By David Skolnick


The city’s board of control hired a company for $10,000 to determine whether the front of the former Paramount Theatre can be saved when the rest of the long-vacant building is demolished.

Atlantic Engineering Services, a consulting structural engineering firm with an office in Pittsburgh, will start the work next week and will have a report to the city within 30 days, said Charles Shasho, deputy director of the city’s public works department.

The board agreed Friday to hire AES through Strollo Architects, the Youngstown company developing a plan to take down the building and save the front portion.

A preliminary inspection determined the front of the 94-year-old downtown building, on the corner of West Federal and Hazel streets, couldn’t be saved, but recommended a more-detailed study.

It likely would cost $900,000 to $1.2 million to secure and save the front of the structure, if it can be saved, Rodney Lamberson, executive vice president and a principal with Strollo Architects, has said.

The Paramount Project, a group seeking to turn the property into an amphitheater and outdoor gathering space, is “very pleased that the mayor and board of control are examining all options before undertaking the demolition of this important landmark,” said Michael Morley, the organization’s co-organizer.

A preliminary inspection from Centric Engineering, a New Waterford company hired by Strollo for that work, 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 it is demolished, Lamberson has said.

The building is structurally unsafe and filled with asbestos, said Shasho and Mayor Charles Sammarone.

And the city doesn’t have the money to save the building’s front portion, Sammarone said.

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 Paramount Project 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.

Without the front, the group is uncertain if it will proceed with its plans.

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.

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