After 25 years of neglect and vandalism, Flushing’s landmark RKO Keith’s Theater – once a crown jewel of America’s movie palaces – has been sold to a developer for a reported $20 million.
Patrick Thompson, who heads purchaser, Northern RKO, LLC, has at least two condominium projects under development in Manhattan, one on 44th and another on 17th Street, according to attorney Craig Price.
The property was purchased from the bank; real estate investor Shaya Boymelgreen failed to make mortgage payments. It was reportedly purchased for the outstanding debt.
“The opportunity came up quickly,” Price said, adding that the deal was made over a mere 72 hours – remarkable speed for such transaction. It was completed on Friday, April 30. When asked why the sale went unannounced for four weeks, Craig said, “Nobody asked.”
The site is currently approved by the Board of Standards and Appeals for up to 389,000 square feet of condominiums, with a “community facility” that could include a nursing home or long-term care facility.
“Patrick knows that the lobby is a New York City landmark and has to be preserved,” Price said. “He hasn’t decided what he ultimately wants to do with the property.”
If there is a significant change in the proposed use of the site, a project may have to go through the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, but according to Price,
“the goal is to build something reflecting the magnificence of the old Keith’s for Flushing.”
Opened in 1928, the 2,900 seat theater witnessed the end of vaudeville with live shows that included such showbiz legends as Bob Hope. It closed as a movie house in 1986. The interior was heavily damaged during the period it was owned by developer Tommy Huang, while the city’s Landmarking process was ongoing.
James McClelland, chief of staff for City Councilmember Peter Koo, said that Thompson had already been in touch. “We called him for a meeting ‘in a few days,’ and he set it up immediately,” McClelland said.
“His plans are in their infancy, but he seemed very responsive to continuing communication,” he added.