An historic theater in downtown Cedar Rapids that was demolished by the floods of 2008 will be rebuilt and revived. Restoration work got underway this week on the Paramount Theater, which was built in the 1920s. Restoration committee chairman Jim Hoffman says this effort was hard to imagine during the city’s record flooding three years ago.

“We had eight feet of water above this floor, so there was literally water all the way to the first balcony in the theater,” Hoffman says. “It was literally one of the largest swimming pools in the Midwest for several days. It just was heartbreaking but we got it all cleaned out, we got all the mold out of it, we got it all remediated and now it’s ready to go and we’re going to start construction in the next few weeks.”

The Paramount’s restoration is expected to cost around $35-million. Hoffman says countless decisions involved in the restoration have to go through FEMA, the national park service, and the state historic preservation office, all while staying on budget. Hoffman says all of the work will be well worth it.

“We are completely restoring the Paramount from its grandeur of 1928,” Hoffman says. “The entire building is going to be historically accurate, but with all brand new paint, all brand new lighting, all brand new seats. What people will say is, ‘Hmm, it doesn’t look that different.’ So that’s been the trick and I’m as excited to see it as anybody.”

Both FEMA and I-JOBs funds are helping to pay for the restoration. The Paramount’s grand re-opening is set for October of 2012.

Photo courtesy of the City of Cedar Rapids.