Melodie Garneau is making the switch from tenant to owner of the Paramount Building – a move she hopes will preserve the cultural history of Oklahoma City’s Film Exchange District.
The complex, 701 W Sheridan Ave., which consists of four attached buildings, spans 40,000 square feet and includes attached parking. The $3.5 million purchase is just two years after Garneau stumbled upon the Paramount Building as the perfect home for her dream of opening a theater, wine bar and coffee shop. In a district that once had several screening rooms for theater operators to view movies, the Paramount was home to the last surviving cinema — big enough to hold 70 seats.
Fearing the worst
Over the past couple of years, former owner Ron Smith leased space on the upper floors to film makers, producers, a photographer, and The Hub, a shop that sells plants, craft furniture, gifts and shirts. Garneau feared the worst, however, when Smith began to look for a buyer for the property.
“I wanted to preserve this building and its history as a theater,” Garneau said. “And when the owner wanted to sell the building, a couple of firms looked at it and what they wanted to do was to gut the building and turn it into offices. And nothing against them, but then there is another piece of film history that the city has that is gone.”
Garneau also concluded that an office user would want to gut and remodel the building – likely leaving the Paramount Cafe without a home.
“They would need the space and my business would be gone,” Garneau said. “So I figured if there is a way to buy it, I wanted to do that.”