Theater rehab project symbolic of city’s makeover:

While Anderson officials have focused much energy on Interstate 69 access points and former General Motors Corp. sites and business parks outside the city’s center, they’ve also been carefully rebuilding downtown.

In 2002, Anderson Indiana Main Street was formed, and has become active in the last two years recruiting business there and hosting a number of festivals and other events.

In recent years, many of the streets have been repaved-some with brick pavers as part of a massive beautification project for the city’s downtown, which is nestled along White River. Building facades have been rehabbed and period lighting has been added.

A River District was set up to encourage development of restaurants and other entertainment venues.

The Paramount Theatre Centre & Ballroom at downtown’s Meridian and Main streets is perhaps most symbolic of attempts to remake Anderson.

During the recession of the 1980s when GM was pulling out, the theater-built in 1929-was a whisker away from condemnation. City officials were going to raze it for surface parking.

But a group of community leaders stepped in to rehab the building’s roof
and later restored the interior to its previous glory, including terra cotta roof tiles, alabaster balconies and a ceiling that features a moving, morphing sky.

“This is just one of the unknown jewels of Anderson,” said Mary Starkey, executive director for Madison County’s Corporation for Economic Development. “It’s a draw all by itself.”

Here are a few of The Paramount’s unique features:

It is one of only 12 John Ebersondesigned atmospheric theaters remaining in the United States and Canada.

Its 1,458 seats are covered in winecolored velvet fabric.

Its 20-foot-by-40-foot movie screen is one of the largest in Indiana.

It has a recently constructed orchestra pit lift for 20 musicians.

At 6,000 square feet, the art-deco ballroom is the largest free-standing public room in Madison County, with seating for 400.

Forty-one paint colors and a fortune of gold leaf were used in the theater restoration.

The Grand Page Theatre Pipe Organ is one of only three such organs remaining in its original installation in the United States.

The Paramount Theatre Centre & Ballroom’s velvet lined seats and moving cloudscape ceiling is one of Anderson’s prime downtown attractions.

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