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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.


The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.
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