A downtown street will close for up to 90 days

By David Skolnick



Hazel Street between West Federal and Commerce streets will be closed for up to 90 days starting Wednesday because of the demolition of the former Paramount Theatre downtown.

Baumann Enterprises Inc., the Cleveland company hired by the city to take down the building, also will close the westbound portion of West Federal Street between Phelps and Hazel streets for up to 30 days starting Wednesday.

That section of street will be closed only between 6 p.m. and 7 a.m. weekdays. Detours will be posted.

The $721,000 contract Baumann has with the city to demolish the asbestos-filled, weather-damaged theater building on the corner of West Federal and Hazel streets requires work on that busy area of downtown to be done between 6 p.m. and 7 a.m.

Although those living nearby will be inconvenienced, city officials say it would be a bigger problem to have the project done during the day because of the large number of workers in that area.

Baumann also can work weekends, if it chooses, between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m., said Charles Shasho, deputy director of the city’s public works department. He said he doubted work would be done on the weekends, but the company has that option.

The actual demolition likely will begin next Monday, with the project finished by Sept. 21, Shasho said.

A large crane is expected to arrive next Monday, and Baumann will focus on demolishing the 95-year-old building, which should be down a few weeks after the work starts, Shasho said.

Then, the company will haul and remove the debris, test the ground for potential contamination, then backfill the property and pour asphalt to turn it into a parking lot, Shasho said.

The Paramount Project, a group working to preserve the memory of the building, originally had wanted to turn the property into an amphitheater and outdoor gathering space and use the existing front portion of the structure for a small restaurant and office space.

But two reports showed the building, last used in 1976, is structurally unsound, and any effort to retain the front of the former theater would cost at least $1 million with no guarantee of success.

Also, the group wanted to use the building’s iron marquee in the design of a seating area it will build in front of the property. But the marquee’s condition is beyond use, Shasho said.

Pieces of the building’s terra-cotta have been removed and will be incorporated into the seating area.

Also, the group will install decorative fencing to separate that area from the parking lot, said Mayor Charles Sammarone.

The city received an $803,490 grant from the state in July 2011 to demolish the Paramount building. The city won’t need that much money as Baumann submitted a $721,000 proposal.

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 and since then has passed through a number of hands.

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