BY JAMES FARRELL
Plans to redevelop the historic and long-debilitated RKO Keith’s Theatre in Flushing cleared a hurdle on May 16.
During a public hearing, the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) approved plans for the RKO Keith’s, which has an interior landmarked grand foyer and ticket lobby, clearing the property for development.
In August, the theater was purchased by Xinyuan Real Estate from JK Equities for $66 million. The group joined a long line of owners since the theater shut down in 1986. Since that time, none have been able to utilize the property and the site has been taken over by numerous developers multiple times—often at the displeasure of local conservationists, who hope that the historic theater would be preserved or restored.
The plans for the property, which were originally approved by Community Board 7 and put forward by JK Equities, call for a 16-story building with 269 condos. At the LPC hearing, plans to rehabilitate and preserve the landmarked elements of the property and move ahead with the project were approved.
According to the plans, full-on demolition of the building should begin in the fall.
Following the approval, Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing), who had submitted testimony in support of the project, issued a statement calling the decision “bittersweet.”
“While it is saddening that the entire theater will not be restored, we are excited that this project will finally get underway after more than 30 years,” he said. “Our community has fond memories of the majestic RKO Keith’s and the developer has gone to great lengths to ensure the landmarked lobby and grand foyer will be safely preserved or replicated. While our community would love to see this theater restored, the economics of such a restoration have been exacerbated by illegal demolitions from past owners, as well as severe deterioration, whether damage and vandalism resulting from decades of inertia.”
Reach James Farrell at (718) 357-7400 x 127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @farrellj329.