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Demolition of Paris Cinema in Worcester set for next week

July 12,2017 16:31

WORCESTER - One of the buildings targeted for demolition as part of the Worcester Redevelopment Authority's Downtown Urban Revitalization Plan will come down, starting next week. Demolition of the 90-year-old former Paris Cinema at 66-70 Franklin St.

Wednesday
Jul 12, 2017 at 12:04 PM Jul 12, 2017 at 11:39 PM

Nick Kotsopoulos Telegram & Gazette Staff @NCKotsopoulos
WORCESTER - One of the buildings targeted for demolition as part of the Worcester Redevelopment Authority's Downtown Urban Revitalization Plan will come down, starting next week.
Demolition of the 90-year-old former Paris Cinema at 66-70 Franklin St. will begin at 10 a.m. Tuesday, according to Quincy-based development group MG2, which owns the property and is redeveloping a 6-acre area downtown known as the Grid District.
In place of the movie theater, MG2 plans to put in a 320-seat indoor/outdoor Brew Garden. That is the second phase of the group's "Live, Work and Play" model of city living.
The Brew Garden, described as an "urban oasis," will feature lush plant life, an event stage, trellis and three-season seating.
"We are pleased to continue with the evolution of the Grid District and the revitalization of downtown Worcester," said John McGrail, president and chief executive officer of MG2. "We believe the restaurant concepts, especially the Brew Garden, reinforce the goal of having a Live, Work and Play downtown."
The Grid District encompasses the area from the south side of the Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts to the Worcester Public Library and runs alongside the green space of the Worcester Common.
MG2 is investing more than $30 million in rehabilitating several properties in that area.
Once completed, it will be a self-contained community with upscale apartments and an area where residents won't have to venture far to meet their needs.
In addition to the Brew Garden, the area will have dining and retail options.
The Paris Cinema is one of two former movie theaters, among some two dozen downtown properties, that have been targeted by the WRA for potential demolition and/or redevelopment, as part of an ambitious urban revitalization plan it came out with last year.
The three-story brick and concrete building, which is listed on the Massachusetts Cultural Resources Information System for its historical significance, has been vacant since 2006, and it was condemned by the Fire Department because of structural integrity concerns.
It will be the first building included in the revitalization plan to be demolished.
MG2 decided to raze the building rather than attempt to rehabilitate it because of its severe structural deterioration. It determined that restoring the building was financially unfeasible.
It had been estimated that it would cost more than $21 million just to stabilize the building and bring it up to today's building codes. In comparison, the cost to demolish the building has previously been pegged at about $500,000.
Also, MG2 saw the site as an opportunity to expand dining and entertainment space within the Grid District.
"We're excited to open additional venues at the Grid and activate Franklin Street across from the Common," said Joseph Donovan, vice president of MG2. "We believe these restaurants will add dining and entertainment options for our residents, visitors and professionals in the downtown."
In June 2016, the Historical Commission unanimously denied a request of the owner to waive the city's demolition delay ordinance, which puts a one-year hold on the razing of historic structures.
The commission contended that demolition of the building would be detrimental to the historical and architectural resources of the city.
But two months later, MG2 took a second crack at seeking a waiver to the ordinance, this time on the grounds that having to keep the building up for another year would pose an economic hardship for the owner.
The Historical Commission ended up voting 4-1 to grant the waiver on the economic hardship grounds.
The Paris Cinema, formerly known as the Capitol Theatre, opened in 1926. It closed for renovation in 1966 and reopened as the two-screen Paris Cinema in 1967.
In 1980, it became an adult movie theater and remained as such until 2006 when it closed, after the building was cited for code violations, as well as health and safety issues.

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