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CB 7 green lights RKO Theater variance

Community Board 7 voted on Monday, February 14, to approve the zoning variance requested by developer Patrick Thompson to turn the remains of the RKO Theater in Flushing into a mixed-use structure.

It would include a senior citizen center, 357 residences and 360 parking spaces. The plan must now be cleared by the borough president’s office and then the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals.

“I’m thrilled,” said Thompson. “It was the right decision.”

Provided the plan will be fully approved, Thompson expects construction to begin in the last quarter of this year. He expects construction to last for two to two and a half years.

Hosting legends like Bob Hope, the theater opened its doors in 1928. Developer Tommy Huang bought the property after it closed in 1986 and tore apart the interior while the structure was acquiring landmark status.

“I applaud CB7’s careful consideration and approval of this important proposal to redevelop and beautify this historic site as well as further establish downtown Flushing as a cornerstone of Queens,” Assemblymember Grace Meng said. “As a member of the Aging Committee for the New York State Assembly, I also want to thank the developers for their commitment to set aside space for a much needed senior center to serve the Flushing community.”

Community Board 7 Land Use Chair Chuck Apelian noted that the structure would “anchor the important gateway to Flushing,” but said that he was opposed to the plan as presented.

Apelian believed that the number of units and parking will create more congestion in the area.

However, the development would still restore the landmarked lobby and provide the community with the 15,000 square foot senior center, he said.

“I’m very excited and honored,” said Jay Valgora, principal of Studio V Architecture, the firm designing the building.

Valgora felt this marked the community’s support of the project and is intent on moving forward. He added that the original promises to preserve the lobby have been locked into the design.

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