Worcester, MA – Owner of former Paris Cinema wants to demolish building

posted by ThrHistoricalSociety on June 20, 2016 at 7:57 pm

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From The Telegram: One of the buildings targeted for demolition by the Worcester Redevelopment Authority, as part of its Downtown Urban Revitalization Plan, could come down much sooner than envisioned.

The owner of the former Paris Cinema, 66-70 Franklin St., has petitioned the Historical Commission for a waiver to the city’s demolition delay ordinance, which puts a one-year hold on tearing down historical buildings.

In its application, Quincy-based Worcester Park Plaza LLC indicated that it wants to demolish the vacant 90-year-old, three-story brick and concrete building because of its “severe structural deterioration.”

The building is said to have code violations, as well as health and safety issues.

The Fire Department has placed an “X” sign on the front of the building, which has been closed since 2006, to warn firefighters that it is unsafe.

Bolton & DiMartino Inc., local consulting structural engineers, said they have found the exterior brick of the building to be in poor condition and said it needs to be rebuilt at severely deteriorated areas because of a lack of maintenance for decades.

It also found the interior of the building to be in poor condition, with significant deterioration from water infiltration and lack of maintenance.

“Based on our limited review of the existing conditions, it is our professional opinion that the Paris Cinema is structurally compromised and presents safety concerns in its current condition,” wrote Christopher Tutlis, an engineer with the firm.

“We recommend limiting access to the theater due to falling finishes, and concerns of the integrity of the floors, roof and stairs,” he added.

As part of its application, the company indicated that one of the reasons it is seeking a demolition delay waiver is economic hardship.

The Historical Commission is scheduled to take up the petition for a waiver at its meeting on June 30.

Before then, representatives of the building owner are supposed to meet with staff from the city Division of Planning and Regulatory Services to provide additional information on the need for the waiver.

Because the building is listed on the Massachusetts Cultural Resources Information System, it is subject to the demolition delay ordinance.

The purpose of the ordinance is to delay demolition for up to 12 months so there could be additional time to explore alternative uses for a historic building or a new owner for it.

The Historical Commission can waive the ordinance, however, if the owner is able to prove that a building’s demolition will not negatively impact the historical or architectural resources or the city, or that it would cause an undue economic hardship to keep the building up for another year.

There are actually three buildings on the parcel at 66-70 Franklin St. – the former Paris Cinema and two brick buildings with frontage on Portland Street.

While the movie theater portion of the building is three stories in height, the buildings with frontage on Portland Street are up to five stories tall. Those buildings will be left in place when the theater portion of the building is demolished.

In its application, Worcester Park Plaza did not indicate what its plans are for the property after the movie theater is taken down, but earlier this year its owners said they would like to temporarily make way for parking spaces and a pop-up retail shop.

As part of its Downtown Urban Revitalization Plan, the WRA indicated that the Franklin Street property would be best suited for a new building with commercial/office space, or a combination of first-floor commercial/retail/restaurant space with residential or commercial space on the upper floors.

The revitalization plan also recommends the demolition of another old former movie house, the former Olympia/Fine Arts Theater on Pleasant Street.

“The WRA understands that demolition of the Paris Cinema and Olympia Theater is not ideal given their age and contributions to the city’s cultural history in the late 1800s and early 1900s,” the WRA revitalization plan states. “However, the Paris Cinema structure has been condemned by the Worcester Fire Department due to concerns regarding its structural integrity.”

The City Council unanimously approved the WRA plan Tuesday night. It next goes to the state for its approval.

The movie theater faces the Common across Franklin Street and is near City Hall.

Built around 1926, the theater was originally known as the Capitol Theatre and later became the Paris Cinema, when was divided into two theaters. In its later years the Paris Cinema was an adult-movie theater.

Because the exterior of the Capitol Theatre was extensively altered from its original, distinctive design and materials, the Paris Cinema façade is not believed to be particularly significant architecturally.

Story link: http://www.telegram.com/article/20160616/NEWS/160619301

ABOUT THEATRE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF AMERICA: Founded by Ben Hall in 1969, the Theatre Historical Society of America (THS) celebrates, documents and promotes the architectural, cultural and social relevance of America’s historic theatres. Through its preservation of the collections in the American Theatre Architecture Archive, its signature publication Marquee™ and Conclave Theatre Tour, THS increases awareness, appreciation and scholarly study of America’s theatres.

Learn more about historic theatres in the THS American Theatre Architecture Archives and on our website at historictheatres.org

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