Loew’s Kings Theater, for decades an unsightly behemoth on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn’s Flatbush neighborhood, could finally be redeveloped soon, nearly two years after the city first tried to find a developer.
The city this week issued a request for proposals to refurbish the ornate 1929 movie house — where Borough President Marty Markowitz got his first kiss and Barbra Streisand worked the doors — into a headliner venue, following a preliminary search for developers. The restoration won’t be cheap: the estimated cost is $70 million.
The city issued a request for expressions of interest back in September 2006, and had said little about the theater since, leading some to believe it had been forgotten.
“We went back and did a condition study to give us a better handle on what it’s going to take to renovate,” said Janel Patterson, a city Economic Development Corporation spokeswoman, adding that a marketing consultant was hired to determine the most lucrative use of such a costly conversion. “That’s what took us two years.”
Already one of the city’s largest entertainment venues with 2,295 water-worn seats, the winning developer would gain adjacent city property on East 22nd Street to expand Loew’s front stage and back stage to accommodate live performances, and several city-owned parcels now leased to a private parking lot operator, which the developer could use to create decked parking. The existing structure is 63,000 square feet, including 5,000 square feet of retail space, but valuable air rights could yield a much larger complex.
The property is not landmarked, but the city’s RFP requires the theater to be renovated.
The winning developer would be expected to restore most of Loew’s surviving features, from its ornate curved ceilings to the whimsical mural of marching knights adorning the men’s room, all in classic movie house styling. Those features have suffered significant wear since the venue was shuttered in 1979.
The city suggests renovations could be funded with historic rehabilitation tax credits and the sale of naming rights could help fund the $70 million restoration.
Two serious attempts to redevelop the theater have failed since the city acquired it in the early 1980s.