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Historic Theater Owner Says Extensive Redevelopment Project Will Soon Begin


   A developer says everything is on track to start work this summer to restore an historic theater in western Massachusetts.  State legislators have earmarked funds for another theater restoration project in the region.

   Completing paperwork is all that stands in the way of beginning a $41 million redevelopment of the historic Paramount Theater and attached Massasoit building in downtown Springfield according to Heriberto Flores, president of the New England Farm Workers’ Council.  The nonprofit owns the two historic properties on North Main Street.

    The extensive rehabilitation project is part of the rebirth of Springfield, said Flores.

    " The objective is to make the downtown from the South End to the North End one beautiful place," Flores said during a recent interview.

    City officials agree the project is very important both in terms of economic development and historic preservation.  Nearby the Paramount is Union Station, which reopened last year after a $95 million restoration. Just a few blocks north of the theater, the city’s old bus station is being torn down for a new office building. On South Main Street the $960 million MGM casino opens next month.

   Mayor Domenic Sarno said it is important to bring back the Paramount.

  " It is another historic marquee development project," said Sarno.

   Founded as a vaudeville theater in 1926 and later used as a movie theater, a venue for live rock concerts, and from 1999-2011 a nightclub the Paramount has a Wurlitzer organ and Tiffany chandeliers.

   "We are going to maintain all the historic perspectives," said Flores

   Plans call for the Massasoit building, which dates to 1857 and has been vacant for more than a decade, to be redeveloped as an 85-room hotel.

          Flores said the construction work will begin by replacing the roof to protect the buildings from further deterioration.

   " We want to do that early on and then button-up the building so we can continue working on," said Flores, who added it would be a two-year project.

   Last year, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded a $3.6 million loan guarantee for the project.  Flores said the other funding that is needed is all in place.

   Once complete, the project is projected to create 73 new full-time jobs.  Part of the mission of the nonprofit organization run by Flores is to provide employment opportunities for minorities and low-income people.

    "I take pride in saying we are building in the new Springfield, and a lot of people in the ( Puerto Rican) community are proud of what we are doing," said Flores.

   An economic development bond bill that is making its way through the legislative process on Beacon Hill could provide a boost to a nearly decade long effort to restore the derelict Victory Theater in Holyoke.    The House version of the $600 million bill earmarked $2 million for the Victory Theater project.

    The estimated cost to refurbish the 98-year-old theater in downtown Holyoke has ballooned from $29 million in 2010 to $43 million now.


Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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