Paramount demolition to begin, property to become parking lot

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Demolition of the former Paramount Theatre on West Federal Street in downtown Youngstown will begin in May and take about four months to complete. In its heyday in the 1940s and 1950s, the theater was one of about 10 downtown cinemas.

By David Skolnick


Demolition on the long-vacant Paramount Theatre downtown will begin in May after the board of control signed a $721,000 contract with a Cleveland company to take down the building.

The board Thursday selected Baumann Enterprises Inc. from the seven companies that submitted proposals as it was the lowest. Also, one company’s proposal was incomplete and another withdrew its bid.

The $721,000 cost is considerably less than the city’s $1.1 million estimate for the work.

“We’re happy with the price,” said Charles Shasho, the city’s deputy director of public works.

The city received an $803,490 grant from the state in July 2011 for the project.

The work to the 95-year-old building will take about four months, Shasho said, because the structure is filled with asbestos and has to be kept wet, contained, and then hauled away in specially insulated trucks to a site that accepts asbestos material.

The work will be done only at night on weekdays to cause as little disruption as possible to that busy downtown area, Shasho said.

The building is at West Federal and North Hazel streets. Hazel between West Federal and West Commerce streets will be closed to vehicular traffic likely for the duration of the project, and West Federal will be closed at times.

In addition to demolishing the building, Baumann will grade the property and turn it into a parking lot. The lot will be available for those driving to City Hall to pay water and sewer bills.

The city originally had planned to save the building’s facade. But two reports showed it 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.

A local group, the Paramount Project, wanted to turn the property into an amphitheater and outdoor gathering space and use the front portion for a small restaurant and office space.

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.

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

Lou Frangos of Cleveland, a downtown property owner, purchased the Paramount in April 2006 for $79,900, and has said he spent more than $200,000 on consultants and restoration specialists to see if the building could be rehabilitated. Restoring the building would cost between $9 million and $12 million, he said three years ago.

The city bought the building from Frangos for $80,000 in November 2010 with the expectation it would receive state funding to take it down.

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