By Madina Toure
Developer JK Equities will start building condos at the RKO Keith’s Theater in downtown Flushing within the next few months.
The developer is constructing a 16-story mixed-used building at the former theater on 135-35 Northern Blvd., with 270 condominium units and a parking garage with about 300 parking spots. The building will also include roughly 40,000 square feet of commercial space, 16,000 square feet of which will house a community facility.
Construction will take anywhere from 24 to 30 months, said Jerry Karlik, one of the principal owners of Flushing Square Realty LLC, the property’s title holder. Karlik is also head of JK Equities. They plan to start work within the next few months.
“We are the first owners to actually file for building permit and we’re going to build this building with the help and support of the community,” Karlik said. “We’re building exactly what has been approved by BSA (Board of Standards and Appeals).”
Karlik said the landmarked portions of the theater — the ticket booth and the grand foyer — will be renovated and brought back to their original state. They will serve as the lobby into the residential portion of the condominium building.
The theater has been vacant for more than 20 years and has been taken over by numerous developers, including the notorious Thomas Huang. Karlik — who grew up in Flushing and attended the theater in his teenage years — bought the theater for $30 million from Patrick Thompson, who was going to develop the property but ended up having financial problems.
Thompson bought the property for $20 million in 2010 and planned to build 357 rental units, 17,000 square feet of retail space and a community facility for seniors.
Karlik and Thompson discussed the property for years, but Karlik finally decided to pursue his plan as he noticed how fast the Flushing’s residential market was growing. He used Thompson’s proposal for the building but opted to build condos instead of rental apartments and brought the number of units down to 270.
He and the other principal owners — Eddie Mi, Min Ouyang and Henry Lam — hired historic landmark consultants to help renovate and bring back the landmarked interior.
The proposed building has received support from Queens Community Board 7, Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing), Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and the community in general, Karlik said.
He said that when the partners first bought the building, there was “really nothing to save.”
“It was in horrendous condition,” Karlik said. “The landmarked area was so deteriorated that we had to take dramatic steps in order to secure it from the elements.”
Koo praised the proposed plans, saying that the new building could stimulate economic activity in the surrounding area and make downtown Flushing more attractive.
“This historic building has become an eyesore in the community,” Koo said in an e-mail. “The creation of much-needed housing units, along with the building’s revitalization, is something I would welcome. I will continue working with the stakeholders in this project to make sure the needs of all are properly balanced.”
Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 260–4566.