SPRINGFIELD – The New England Farm Workers Council has bought the historic Paramount Theater building downtown for $1.725 million.
On Friday, the new owners paid the city $86,458 to cover the property taxes and Business Improvement District fees that were owed on the Paramount building and the parking lot.
It pays off all taxes and BID fees owed on those properties up to and including the third quarter of fiscal year 2011, according to City Hall records.
The property will be on the city tax rolls, said Farm Workers Council president, chairman and CEO Heriberto Flores. The same is true for other properties the Council owns, including other buildings in the same neighborhood as the Paramount.
Former owners Steven C. Stein and Michael J. Barrasso will stay on at the theater, which has more recently been known as the Hippodrome, for six months to help with the transition.
Barrasso said he has shows booked in the venue, including two this weekend.
“I’ll be bringing in a team of people to learn the mechanics of the building, all the lights are computerized, you need to know where the electrical boxes are,” Flores said.
He wants to get more tenants to join the businesses already on the street side of the building. He hopes to use the theater itself as a venue for various performances and community celebrations.
“I want to bring colleges and high schools here for graduations,” he said. “You can have all kinds of performances here.”
Flores talked about the need for more lighting, parking and security in the neighborhood. He speculated that a Starbucks coffee shop would help draw foot traffic.
Flores said the Farm Workers Council has already been approached by a magicians group.
The Paramount opened in 1929, at the dawn of talking pictures, as both a movie palace and a vaudeville theater. The dressing rooms can accommodate as many as 75 people, Barrasso said.
Chicopee Savings Bank is the lead lender on the project. Russell J. Omer, executive vice president at Chicopee Savings, said four additional banks will eventually be lenders in the deal.
“This isn’t the deal,” Omer said. “The deal comes together now.”
Flores had to move quickly to get control of the property before it fell into foreclosure, Omer said. “You’ve got to know Herbie and the way he does business,” Omer said. “This gives him site control. Now he’ll develop it. It’s not going to be risky.”
Mayor Domenic J. Sarno praised the purchase, saying the New England Farm Workers Council under Flores is playing an important role in revitalization efforts in the downtown and North End.
“This is another economic develop catalyst in our continuing revitalization strategies to move our city forward,” Sarno said.
The Paramount is a “historic building with a lot of tradition, and I’m sure the Farm Workers Council will continue to build on that,” Sarno said.