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Paramount Theatre/ (former)Palm Beach, FL

Palm Beach Daily News

Sunday January 23, 2011
Dn1 Edition/ A SECTION; Pg. A.16

A PB treasure; Support Paramount’s campaign.

Sometimes, the little things really do count, as the church that owns the 1927 Paramount Building has discovered to its dismay.

Town code officials have ordered the Paramount Church to replace deteriorating rooftop-deck railings that face Sunrise Avenue and North County Road, as well as adapt the roof to meet windstorm codes.

Once the home of the Paramount movie theater, the building was designed by noted architect and Broadway set designer Joseph Urban and is today a retail and office center that also houses the ecumenical church. With its so-called "Moorish Deco" architecture, the building is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The problem is that it also is landmarked by the town, so the new railings must replicate Mr. Urban’s original designs, replacing the off-the-rack versions that the town OK’d as a literal stop-gap in 1985.

That’s why the church has mounted a campaign to raise the $365,000 it needs to do the job by the town’s May 31 deadline, after which daily fines will start accruing. "We may be forced to put the building up for sale," The Rev. Dwight Stevens told the Shiny Sheet. "It’s not something we want to think about."

Supporters are using an entity called the "Historic Paramount Preservation Fund" to accept donations — a wise move that could attract donors who might otherwise hesitate to give money to a religious institution. Donors can underwrite one railing at $250 a pop or a section for $5,000.

So far since last summer, Rev. Stevens says, the project has raised nearly $70,000 — including funds donated by tenants who rent space there and $5,000 that came in after a full-page ad ran recently in the Shiny Sheet. A fundraising appeal will be mailed to would-be donors shortly.

Bank loans and federal and state preservation-grant money have so far proved elusive, according to Rev. Stevens.

The fundraising campaign highlights the perilous world of historic preservation when buildings have owners without deeper- than-deep pockets. Yet few would argue the point that the Paramount Building is a treasure worth preserving. It’s a good example of "adaptive reuse," to use conservationist parlance.

In a town where so many prize historic preservation, raising $300,000 to solve the immediate railing and roof problem isn’t insurmountable, even with the tight deadline. Those who can afford it should give generously.

But the Paramount Church and the building’s supporters also should put into place aggressive and long-term fundraising and grant- solicitation plans to handle future maintenance needs. It’s an odd paradox: Preserving old buildings ensures they’ll be around for new generations, but it also means that as these structures grow even older, they’ll require plenty of TLC — and cash — to keep their foundations firm.

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