Paramount makes plans for expansion

Published 9:44 am Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Paramount Theatre has put out a call to architects to submit proposals for the theater's renovation. -- Eric Johnson/

It’s a big move 20 years in the making.

The Paramount Theatre sent out proposal requests to architects Wednesday to develop concept drawings for an expansion project.

“It feels really great,” said Jennie Germain, Paramount executive director. “It feels like we’re actually moving forward, which is good.”

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The Austin Area Commission for the Arts has struggled for years to get an expansion plan off the ground. When the AACA took over the Paramount in 1990, they already wanted to expand the theater. While the AACA and general manager Scott Anderson have renovated the Paramount over the years to keep the building up to code, it wasn’t until last year that Paramount staff could make expansion progress.

The city of Austin moved sewer pipes out of the land east of the Paramount, where the AACA hopes to expand, last summer. In addition, the AACA hired Germain as a full-time employee to tackle the expansion.

Thanks to a $7,000 grant from the Minnesota Historical Society, the project is starting to materialize.

“It’s great to actually take that first step,” Germain said.

Architectural firms have until May 18 to signal their intent to work on the concept drawings. Germain said AACA members will hold a strategic planning meeting in May to get a better idea what they want in an expansion, and architects will hold small group meetings and gather information to flush out their design proposals throughout the summer.

The goal is to wrap up the concept planning in August so they can begin the next phase, which will include applying for more MHS grants in July and planning a fundraising campaign. Though the AACA has gathered about $70,000 in donations over the years, Paramount staff will have to raise much more for a building project.

Still, Germain is excited about getting started.

“To have it be something 20 years in the making is pretty exciting,” she said. “It would allow us to be an even better facility to Austin … and to the surrounding area as well.”