Paramount Theatre and Paramount Arts District

St. Cloud, MN

The Paramount Theatre had a host of physical issues, but serves as a historical landmark in the community.  Located in downtown St. Cloud, the Paramount Theatre was built in 1921.  By the mid-1960’s, the Paramount had fallen into disrepair, and in 1985, a fire did extensive damage, bringing the idea of restoration to the forefront. A 1992 study concluded that there was a community need for performing arts space and space for visual arts and education, which could be fulfilled by a creation of an arts district that included the Paramount Theatre building and previously unused and under utilized portions of the adjoining Germain Towers building. When GLTArchitects and the construction manager were asked to review the feasibility of renovating the Paramount Theatre, the first task was to determine the cost of demolition and the potential cost of sale or development of the resulting site, and to compare these costs to the cost of developing a new theatre at a different site.  It was determined that the cost to renovate the existing buildings could be done at a cost of $2.5 million less than it would cost to demolish it and build a new similar facility.

“To demolish the Paramount, as some suggested we do, would have cost the city an estimated $571,000.  But the cost to our community would have been much more.”
- Editorial, St. Cloud Daily Times, September 24, 1998

The goal was to bring the Paramount as close to what it had been in 1921 as possible, while addressing the needs for modern community theatre and incorporating technology, lighting, and sound.  To improve site lines and make better use of the stage house, to enhance the relationship of the audience to the stage, and to improve accessibility for those with disabilities, we removed the aisles, installed continental seating, and laid a new floor.  These improvements reduced the need for additional lighting instruments and rigging in the theater.   Perhaps most remarkable in the restoration was the addition of modern-day technical and safety equipment without compromising the historical authenticity of the facility.  Two slots were created in the ceiling to invisibly accommodate the stage lights upon entry into the theater.  Speakers were hidden behind screen cloth in recesses.  From the audience’s perspective, the only reminders that this is not 1921 is an infrared instrument on the ceiling for the hearing impaired. In order to create the Paramount Arts District, the Paramount Theatre building was joined with part of the first floor and all of the lower level of the adjoining Germain Towers building.  All together, the Paramount Arts District encompasses more than 46,000 square feet and four inter-related components: the renovated Paramount Theater and auxiliary spaces, a suite of administrative offices, visual-arts classrooms and studios, and a retail gallery. Project cost approx. $5.4 Million.

  • Honor Award from the Preservation Alliance of MN