In June 2008, Cedar Rapids experienced flooding of historic and catastrophic proportions. The Cedar River crested June 13 at 31.12 feet, 19.12 feet above flood stage and 11.12 feet above the previous record set in 1929, with most of the damage occurring in the downtown arts and business district.
The Paramount Theatre, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was built in 1928 as a performing arts vaudeville palace, hosting Broadway shows, concerts, comedians and orchestra events. After the flood, the ground level of the theatre was submerged under eight feet of water, and the electrical and mechanical systems were destroyed. The community rallied together to save their beloved icon, and brought Ryan in to both restore the damage and update the theatre for the 21st century.
Predevelopment for the project was a long process, with Ryan helping to ensure compliance with state I-JOBS and federal FEMA funding requirements, as well as investigating other funding sources. We used our extensive experience in flood damage recovery and historic restoration to help secure both state and federal historic tax credits. This creative mix of funding was instrumental in the successful restoration and technical enhancement of the theatre, and allowed us to provide an expanded stagehouse and orchestra pit, more comfortable seating, enhanced acoustics, updated audio/visual capabilities, a loading dock and a VIP lounge.
We were extremely proud to win national recognition for our work on the Paramount Theatre project and to be a part of helping downtown Cedar Rapids become a vibrant, bustling arts destination once again.
The Paramount Theatre is a shining example of Ryan’s expertise in flood damage recovery and historic restoration in action. The project team had to develop a design that met not only budget and schedule goals, but respected the theatre’s historic nature while adding functionality to meet the demands of a 21st century venue.
Working under extremely delicate conditions, Ryan restored all electrical and mechanical systems and expanded the theatre so that the green room and dressing areas are now above the reach of future floods. Water-damaged plaster was repaired and replaced throughout the theatre, and every square inch of paint within the theatre was completely restored to appear as it did when the theatre opened in 1928.
We also enhanced the theatre’s acoustics, added new seating and lighting, completed sound and rigging upgrades and expanded the stage space to accommodate larger events. Our team completed the restoration with meticulous attention to preservation of the theatre’s historic character while simultaneously considering how the facility could be upgraded to be more useful to the community in the future. The theatre is once again enlivening downtown Cedar Rapids, and now serves as the home of the Iowa Orchestra, touring Broadway shows, live music and comedy acts, community performances and more.