Condo plans for Flushing’s RKO Keith’s reportedly stalled after ‘landmark issues’

Photo via Pei Cobb Freed & Partners Architects

A condo project slated to be built atop a beloved Flushing landmark is facing delays, according to a recent report.

The RKO Keith’s movie theater at 135-29 Northern Blvd. opened in 1928 and was granted partial interior landmark status on its ornate grand lobby and ticket foyer spaces shortly before its closing in 1986. The site has been vacant ever since, passing through several different developers who tried unsuccessfully to re-develop the site.

The historic property was most recently purchased in July 2016 for $66 million by Xin Development, a U.S. development arm of China’s Xinyuan Real Estate. In May 2017, the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) officially gave the green light to the developer’s plans to build a glassy 16-floor building atop the landmarked space.

However, developers have hit a snag, according to a new report from The Real Deal. A broker who has worked with Xinyuan told the publication that “the project is stalled and there are landmark issues.”

The company has also dismantled Xin Development in recent weeks and turned over management of the RKO Keith’s and two other New York City projects to Kuafu Properties. Xinyuan retains ownership of the projects.

Under the specifications of the Landmarks Commissioner, the developers were required to enclose the landmarked areas during construction and disassemble them, restore them off-site and then reinstall the salvaged ornamental plasterwork, woodwork and replicas. Non-landmarked areas of the theater, like the auditorium, were slated to be demolished.

Demolition permits for the site have not yet been filed with the city’s Department of Buildings, according to the agency’s database.

News about the re-development drew the ire of certain locals, who argued that the historic site should be restored to its former glory as a community arts center. A petition to save the site from demolition has garnered over 2,600 signatures since it was published in late October.

A spokesperson for Xinyuan told The Real Deal that the company is “constantly making efforts to enhance our existing development and project management capabilities in international markets” and has entrusted Kuafu to provide construction management and marketing services.

Xinyuan’s move is part of a larger speculation that China-based companies may be pulling away from investing in the U.S. real estate market, the report also said.

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