New Owners For Historic RKO Keith’s

BY JOE MARVILLI
Staff Writer

An historic Flushing theater may soon have a new lease on life, having been sold last week to a local developer.

RKO Keith’s Theatre was bought by Flushing Square LLC, which plans to transform the vacant venue into a mixed-use residential development. Headed by Jerry Karlik, Flushing Square purchased the property from Northern RKO LLC, owned by Patrick Thompson.

A rendering of the possible development for the historic RKO Keith’s Theatre, located in downtown Flushing.

A rendering of the possible development for the historic RKO Keith’s Theatre, located in downtown Flushing.

The $30 million deal, which had been in the works for more than a year, was brokered by Kenneth Zakin, the senior managing director of Newmark Grubb Knight Frank’s Capital Markets. According to him, the time was right for Thompson to sell the theater, located at 135-35 Northern Blvd., after attempts to find an equity partner.

“I think this is just really a case of the stars being aligned,” Zakin said. “Jerry Karlik was very interested in the deal. He’s known [RKO Keith’s] all his life.”

Flushing Square development intends to work within the guidelines of a development plan approved by the Board of Standards and Appeals in 2011. That plan would construct a 407,173-square-foot, 17-story mixed-use complex that would contain as many as 357 residential units, 385 parking spaces, 17,000-square-feet of retail space and a community facility for seniors.

While the 85-year-old property will be redeveloped, the theater’s classic lobby will remain unchanged, as it was landmarked in 1984. The architectural team has not yet been designated, but Karlik is going to work with the team and his partners on making the units “attractive to the community he’s going to be serving,” Zakin said.

Karlik’s work in renovating landmarked structures has garnered much acclaim, such as his adaptive reuse of 888 South Michigan Avenue in Chicago.

His partners on this project include Eddie Ni, Min Ouyang and Ching Lam.

This sale marks the latest move in the ongoing saga of RKO Keith’s Theatre.

The theater was designed by architect Thomas Lamb and built in 1928. For about 60 years, the RKO Keith’s started out hosting vaudeville shows in the 1920s and moved on to films for the next few decades. It closed in 1986 and has been vacant ever since.

The theater was previously owned by Tommy Huang, a developer who pleaded guilty to endangering public health after he let 200 gallons of oil leak from the building’s furnaces into its basement.

Reach Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, jmarvilli@queenstribune.com, or @Joey788.