Prep work to demolish former Paramount Theatre starts Monday

By David Skolnick


Preliminary work will start Monday in preparation for the demolition of the long-vacant Paramount Theatre in the city’s downtown.

Baumann Enterprises Inc., the Cleveland company hired by the city for the $721,000 job, will start assembling a large crane that will be used to demolish the building, bring in other equipment, and erect barricades to close Hazel Street between West Federal and West Commerce streets to vehicular traffic during the demolition project.

The actual demolition is expected to begin about July 8, with the project finished in September, said Charles Shasho, deputy director of the city’s public-works department.

Because of the Paramount’s location on the corner of West Federal and North Hazel streets, the work will be done only at night on weekdays to cause as little disruption as possible in that busy area of downtown, Shasho said. Also, a small portion of West Federal in front of the theater building also will be closed at certain times during demolition.

The Paramount Project, a group working to preserve the memory of the 95-year-old 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, to be structurally unsound, and any effort to retain the front of the former theater would cost at least $1 million with no guarantee of success.

Neglected for years, the building’s roof developed large holes causing extensive weather-related damage to the Paramount’s interior.

Unable to save the facade, the group wanted to have portions of the building’s terra-cotta and its bare iron marquee awning saved with the plan to incorporate those items into a seating area at the front part of the property. After the building is demolished, the city is turning the location into a parking lot.

Pieces of the terra-cotta have been removed, but the iron marquee is in poor condition and couldn’t be saved, Shasho said.

The seating area with planters and decorative fencing likely will be built next spring, he said.

The city bought the building for $80,000 in November 2010 from Lou Frangos of Cleveland, a downtown property owner, with the intention of demolishing the structure.

The city received an $803,490 grant from the state in July 2011 for demolition. The city won’t need that much money as Baumann submitted a $721,000 proposal, beating out six other companies seeking the work.

Because of the large amount of asbestos, Baumann will demolish the building in pieces, keeping the site wet and contained, and hauling away the pieces in a specially insulated truck to a site that accepts asbestos material.

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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