Eastern Consolidated to market dormant Flushing theater

By David Jones | January 31, 2008 05:18PM

Eastern Consolidated has been named the exclusive agent to market the site of the long-dormant RKO Keith theater in downtown Flushing.

The site has already been rezoned for a 16-story, 390,000 square foot mixed-use project that could house Flushing’s tallest building.
The rezoning allows for up to 200 residential units, 10,175 square feet of retail space, a senior center and 229 parking spaces. A glass facade would be built around the theater’s landmarked lobby and foyer.

Community Board 7 officials say redeveloping the site is long overdue, and that the Main Street and Northern Boulevard intersection is a critical piece of Flushing’s development.

“There is a 500,000 percent interest in getting this site developed,” said Marilyn Bitterman, the Community Board 7 district manager. “Every meeting we go to the question comes up: when are we going to see some development at the RKO Keith’s?”

The prospective sale comes amid a development boom in Flushing, where Muss Development is building Sky View Parc (once known as Flushing Town Center), a mixed-use Development With A Luxury Condominium On College Point Boulevard near Flushing Meadow Park. That development will include big national retailers, including Target and Home Depot, Bitterman said.
At the RKO site, Boymelgreen Developers gave up on its big plans and decided to sell the property after a dispute with the community. In 2007, Community Board 7 approved a mixed-used project with 250 condominium units and retail and commercial space. However, after the approval Boymelgreen said it wanted to develop the residential units into lofts for home businesses.

Originally built in 1928, the RKO Keith’s theater was considered one of the crown jewels of New York City’s entertainment scene. The theater hosted big vaudeville acts, and operated for years as a movie house before it was sold for $3.4 million to developer Tommy Huang in 1986. Huang had planned to develop the site into a hotel and shopping center complex, but the site remained dormant for years.
Huang later pled guilty to charges that he allowed heating oil to spill into the RKO Keith’s basement and tried to hide the damage. Boymelgreen bought the property from Huang for $15 million in 2002.