By Connor Adams Sheets
The revival of the RKO Keith’s Theatre in downtown Flushing is one step closer to becoming a reality.
Representatives of Patrick Thompson, the owner of the theater, presented his long-awaited redevelopment plan for the landmark site at Borough President Helen Marshall’s land-use hearing last Thursday.
After gaining the approval of Community Board 7 earlier this month, the $160 million proposal went before Marshall, who will rule soon on whether or not it should move forward. City Councilman Peter Koo (R-Flushing) has said repeatedly that he is in full support of Thompson’s plan.
Marshall’s chief of staff, Alex Rosa, spoke in favor of protecting the building’s crumbling, landmarked lobby and said Marshall — who was in another meeting during the discussion — wants to see a good project at the site, but she did not fully commit Marshall to a position on the full proposal. Once Marshall makes her recommendation, the project will proceed to the city Board of Standards and Appeals and possibly the city Landmarks Preservation Commission for final approval.
“The last time I saw [the lobby] ‘Star Wars’ was playing there. It’s a beautiful item that should be preserved for the community,” Rosa said. “The borough president is looking forward to — finally — this gateway to Flushing being revitalized.”
Dan Andrews, a spokesman for Marshall, said Tuesday she “is looking favorably” on Thompson’s proposal.
Thompson’s project would dedicate $8 million to fix the lobby and build a two-story, green undulating glass curtain to display the renovated interior to people as they pass by the site at 137-25 Northern Blvd. The lobby would become the public gateway to a new 17-story tower with 357 market-rate apartments, a senior center, 385 parking spaces and more than 12,000 square feet of retail.
“The idea for the lobby is to have it be accessible from the interior but also to be visible from the exterior as an architectural object so people will actually be able to view it and walk around it,” one of the project’s architects, Roberto Mancinelli of Studio V Architecture, said.
Some people are not so thrilled about the project, including Henry Euler, first vice president of the Auburndale Civic Association, who expressed his mixed emotions about the project at the hearing.
“We’re a little concerned that there will be sufficient parking. We’re also concerned about traffic in that area,” he said. “A lot of people come through downtown Flushing on the way to work and we’re concerned about the impacts the project will have. I am very pleased to see the landmarked lobby is being preserved.”
A 2005 proposal by previous owner Shaya Boymelgreen that CB 7 approved would have included 200 residential units and a senior center, accompanied by 229 parking spaces. That project fell through when Boymelgreen’s finances faltered, and in May 2010 Thompson bought the note on the property from Doral Bank for $20 million. Boymelgreen had owned the theater since 2002.
In 1999, notorious developer Tommy Huang pleaded guilty to felony charges for ignoring asbestos contamination and pouring hundreds of gallons of fuel oil into the theater’s basement two decades ago. He was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine and sentenced to five years’ probation.
Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4538.