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Groups Give Their Pitches To Relaunch Peekskill's Paramount

Bjorn Olsson of the Tarrytown Music Hall discusses his plans for Peekskill's Paramount at a packed meeting Wednesday night at city hall. Photo Credit: Art Cusano
Kurt Heitman of Red House Entertainment gives his pitch for taking the reins of the Paramount. Photo Credit: Art Cusano
Antonio Chiacca, the Director of Programming at Jazz at Lincoln Center, gives his plan for the Paramount with partner Arne Paglia, right. Photo Credit: Art Cusano

PEEKSKILL, N.Y. — Three groups bidding to take control of Peekskill's Paramount Center for the Arts presented their plans Wednesday night to give the closed venue a second act, and there wasn't an empty seat in the house.

The first bidder, the Paramount Phoenix Group, is led by Division Street Grill owner Arne Paglia. He enlisted the help of Antonio Ciacca, a composer and director of programming of jazz at Lincoln Center.

Ciacca, a Julliard School instructor, told Common Council members and dozens of audience members that he wanted the Paramount to have a "cultural impact" on the city and wanted programs that would tie into city events.

The Phoenix Group would be nonprofit entity and make much of its revenue by renting out the space as a practice facility. "Rental income is significant," Ciacca said.

The group has put together $150,000 in cash for operations, with another $50,000 that could be acquired if they got the contract. The group would pay $50,000 yearly in rent to the city.

It would start by booking acts and programs that have worked in the past and branch out. It would also look to partner with eateries for dinner-and-a-show deals.

If chosen, the group would aim to begin shows April 30.

The second bidding group was the Tarrytown Music Hall, which hoped to make the Paramount its second venue.

The organization, a 501C3 non-profit, has experience managing a similar historic theater, Executive Director Bjorn Olsson said. "There is a special feeling in historic theaters that you don't get in a modern venue," Olsson said.

The Tarrytown nonprofit board would run the Paramount but would invite Peekskill residents to join as well, he said. Commercial shows would be used to pay for more arts-oriented shows, Olsson said. The group would also pay utility costs.

When asked whether the Paramount would feature  smaller acts, Olsson said that would not be the case. Both sides of Westchester would be well served, he said.

Olsson said he hoped to open as soon as possible but said it would take time to get the venue running as it was before.

The third presenter was Red House Entertainment, led by Kurt Heitman of Garrison, a former TV producer and senior vice president of CP Communications.

Red House would concentrate on profitable commercial shows, especially on weekends, but would also offer cultural offerings such as opera simulcasts. The group would also work to create festivals and tentpole events.

"We would have to run as a for-profit, but you can't ignore the cultural arts. You don't make money on it, but it is needed," Heitman said.

Events would have to be better promoted, he said. Big shows on Saturday nights could anchor the lineup and draw regular crowds, Heitman said.

"I never knew what was going on here unless I was going to a show," he said. "We're going to hit it hard with targeting and promotion."

Red House hopes to be self-sustaining within six months and would then pay rent and utilities. Before that, it hoped the city would not charge rent. Heitman also said his group could bring in much of its own equipment, something other groups could not offer.

Mayor Mary Foster said there was no date set to announce the winning bid.

"We want to give every group full consideration, and we want to be thorough," Foster said.

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