Developers close on financing for $47.5M rehabilitation of Jacob Riis Bathhouse in the Rockaways

The financing closed for the $47.5 million preservation project to overhaul the Jacob Riis Bathhouse in the Rockaways. (Photo by Sylvester Zawadzki)

After sitting underutilized for nearly half a century, the renaissance of the Jacob Riis Bathhouse is closer to reality after CBSK Developers, Brooklyn Bazaar and Aulder Capital on March 28 closed on $47.5 million in financing for the large-scale preservation project to restore the 1932 Art Deco building to its former glory.

The project will transform the waterfront at Jacob Riis Park in the Rockaways into an active hub with new restaurants, a bar, a pool, an event space and 28 hotel rooms.

“Today’s closing is a major step forward toward the revitalization and rejuvenation of the iconic Jacob Riis Bathhouse,” said Queens Borough President Donovan Richards. “The restoration of this historic art deco structure is emblematic of the Rockaway Peninsula’s continuing recovery from the devastating impact of Hurricane Sandy and is a symbol of the brighter future we are creating for the Rockaways, its residents, and its many visitors. I look forward to the start of this restoration, and I can’t wait to visit this amazing structure once the work is finished.”

(Photo by Sylvester Zawadzki)

This extensive overhaul will breathe new life into the historic bathhouse, starting with a full restoration of the building’s landmarked façade, windows and turrets. The project will also bring back many of the bathhouse’s original features; it was once home to two restaurants, a cafeteria and numerous concession stands. The project is financed through a $32.5 million construction loan from Procida and a $15 million historic tax credit equity investment from Foss & Company.

“Every year, we are seeing more and more investment into the Rockaway peninsula – investment that is helping to restore the area to its former position as a premier summertime destination,” Councilwoman Joann Ariola said. “This revitalization at the Riis Park Bathhouse is a major step forward toward that goal of restoring Rockaway to its former vacation destination glory, and I can’t wait to see what kind of opportunity this will no doubt bring to the residents of the area.”

The restoration will add a range of similar amenities for the public, including a rooftop restaurant, ground-floor eateries, a casual beachfront bar and retailers stocking beach supplies like sunblock and towels. The project also includes 28 hotel rooms, a catering hall, and multiple event spaces. In the building’s outdoor courtyard, there will be a new pool and lounge areas.

(Photo by Sylvester Zawadzki)

“The revitalization of the bathhouse will bring new jobs, commerce, and entertainment to the Peninsula,” Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato said. “This is a huge step for ‘The People’s Beach’ and an amazing new chapter for our community. I cannot wait to see the finished project and want to thank the project developers and everyone involved for their vision and work.”

Rockaway Beach boardwalk concessionaire Brooklyn Bazaar, a partner on the project, was selected by the National Parks Service to renovate the facility in 2017 following a competitive process. Brooklyn Bazaar owners Belvy Klein and Aaron Broudo began laying the groundwork to restore the bathhouse as soon as they began operating in the Rockaways. They signed a long-term lease agreement on the property in October.

“After years of working in the Rockaways alongside this resilient community, we are thrilled to see our plan for revitalizing the bathhouse at Jacob Riis Park move forward,” Broudo and Klein said in a joint statement. “This building sits on one of the most treasured stretches of beachfront in the city and our vision will realize its full potential by adding new uses, from exciting dining options to beach concessions, all while preserving the historic elements of the structure. Thank you to our elected officials for their unwavering support, and to our community and project partners for their help in getting this project off the ground.”

Known for their expertise in restoring, revitalizing and reusing historic buildings and sites, architecture and planning firm Beyer Blinder Belle is leading the design for the adaptive reuse project, with construction set to begin later this spring and a phased opening expected for 2024.

“Our vision for this project centers on preserving the storied past of the Jacob Riis Park bathhouse while revitalizing it to serve today’s beachgoers, and this closing milestone brings us one step closer to achieving that goal,” said CBSK’s Scott Shnay. “The building has been an iconic landmark on the Queens’ waterfront for decades and our restoration plan for the bathhouse will transform it into a modern beachfront hub, complete with a full range of amenities for the public. We look forward to work getting underway and unveiling a new summertime destination for New Yorkers and visitors to enjoy.”