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Plans to Replace Flushing’s RKO Keith Theater With 16-Story Condo Building Remain on Track

Photo: Landmarks Preservation Commission

May 21, 2019 Staff Report

The future of the historic RKO Keith Theater remains dim and steps toward its demise continue.

Madison Realty Corp., a Manhattan-based private equity firm, announced that it has provided property owner Xinyuan Real Estate with a $30 million pre-development loan—funds that will be used to bulldoze and redevelop the 135-35 Northern Blvd. site, the Commercial Observer first reported.

Xinyuan, a Chinese real estate development firm, plans to build a 16-story, 269-unit condo building on the site, which will also have 17,000 square feet of retail space spread across the first two floors. Additionally, there will be 15,000 square feet reserved for a community facility, and 305 parking spaces.

Rendering (Source: LPC)

The developer plans to complete the property’s demolition by February 2020. Xinyuan acquired the property in 2016 for $66 million, according to records.

“This well-capitalized sponsor has done a fantastic job assembling and planning this shovel-ready site, and the deal was particularly attractive at a less than $100 per square foot loan basis and less than 50 percent of cost,” said Josh Zegen, co-founder and managing principal of MRC.

The theater dates back to 1928 and the  building was not protected from the wrecking ball.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission had, however, granted landmark status to three areas inside the theater—the grand foyer, lobby and ticket booth.

The theater closed in 1986 and had badly deteriorated.

Xinyuan went before the LPC to present its plans in 2017, which included rehabilitating and preserving the foyers and ticket lobby within the glassy building. The proposal was approved.

Deteriorating condition of the grand foyer (Source: LPC

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28 Comments

Your mama’s mama

Hey Haters. You all need to wake up and smell the coffee. The building was bought and flipped by a local white guy. How about directing your hatred and animus for destroying history towards one of your own who bought and sold a piece of American history. Let’s be real. He could’ve restored it to its original splendor but he had no interest in doing that. They would prefer to sell it to a Chinese developer for $66 million. And what’s he doing with his money now? I don’t see him putting it back into the community to “make America great again”. So who’s the one selling away a forgotten piece of American history? It’s the Americans. And let’s also be real. Flushing IS and HAS BEEN for decades a Chinese ex-patriot town so get used to it. It’s a thriving local economy in what would otherwise be a neglected backwater subway/bus stop. The Chinese are building, creating and developing a community which is more than you’re doing sitting around feeling sorry for yourself.

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Alice Lee

Sadly we can doing nothing and no
One care history of America, and they destroyed everything! Building a cold high rise monster in Flushing ! Stand up America to protect your story for your next generations ……….

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Marc

I grew up in Flushing. Been here for 46 years! Saw the original STAR WARS & many other great movies in the main arena style section of the RKO Keiths. When you looked up, you saw stars on the big rounded ceiling! Some of my fondest childhood memories were spent there. In a day when movies now cost about $20 a ticket, I remember paying $2. Flushing has a great history! And with this theater being destroyed, yet another piece of that history has been taken away from us.

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MEDIAWATCHER

Yet another useless derelict obsolete mausoleum will be bulldozed and replaced by a modern edifice which will house actual human beings in lieu of water bugs, racoons, and sewer rats. God Bless America. And China too!

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Flushing

Where’s Melinda Katz? Sleeping or she also has been bought off by developers. Her office does nothing about preservation in the borough of Queens. Then you got the useless Mayor’s office of constituent services who is run by hacks and geographically challenged staff.

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James

I wish most people would read the entire article and do some basic math.
First of all the developer has agreed to rehabilitate and preserve the foyers and ticket lobby within the glassy building. Second, it would require tons of money from the gov’t to preserve & restore the theater. Spend tons of money or get tons of money in property & sales taxes? Do the math!

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Jon

I was born In Flushing but left in the late 1950’s to join the Navy. I was back there last year for the first time to visit a relative who lives in Bayside. Back in the 1950’s. the RKO Keiths was a grand theater where my friends and I would go on a Saturday and seen two motion pictures and five cartoons. And I believe it cost a quarter. Change happens over time but in the case of Flushing, it has not been good. My impression of today’s Main Street area is one of an overflowing toilet. I live in Arizona and I cannot imagine anyone with common sense would reside in Flushing.

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your momma

i think its time american developers go to china and demolish the Yuu Garden and build some basketball courts, until these people stop destroying our culture. We should also start jailing politicians who allow foreign land ownership and ban it outright like NZ.

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ralph

Actually the Chinese learn it from the Europeans, when they burned down and destroyed the Summer Palace in 1860.

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James

So u assume the developer with Chinese name is a foreign company from China? It cannot be American company? How racist & ignorant can u be?

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Paula

But greedy America let it happen. Nobody was digging into their pockets to keep up our landmarks or incorporate them with a beautiful structure aside or top of it. Flushing has become a seedy rundown waste of very valuable space by the late 1970’s. And we were in A recession. Along cane the Chinese with literal suitcases filled with cash and bankers will to look the other way. We were hungry and they had plenty of feed to throw inside the zoo cage. And that is what happened

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Michele Toland

Very sad news. My mother and father who were born in 1924 & 1926 respectively, were from Bayside. I always heard the memorable stories from their days at RKO Keith. Very, very sad. Alot of famous people performed there in the day. Unreal. I wonder what they will do with foyer & ticket lobby.

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Rick Stephens

Flushing NY definitely needs another 1000 illegal alien asians living there and not a movie theater…
Take a trip down Main st Flushing and breath in the beautiful smell of dead fish and garbage. Its a wonderful constuction idea.

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ralph

All the racist gnashing of teeth isn’t ever going to bring back your old version of Flushing. So yes, there may be another 1000 illegal Asian, but the 50,000 other well educated and job holding Asians are in the process of building a vibrant new Flushing, getting rid of the old morass that held it as an economic backwater all those years when it languished as a quaint little burg with crumbling theaters from the last century. So go ahead and grind your teeth, Flushing is finally coming of age 😉

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Big D

We don’t protect history, we sell it away. I hope the grand foyer will be saved. I drove my buss by there for years in hopes it would be rebuilt. Sad.

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V

All about money no quality of life. Adding more people to an already over populated area…makes no sense!!

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Lucy

It’s a shame all people do now these days is tear down buildings instead of trying to preserve history for many generations to come. We don’t need any more buildings in Flushing. I grew up here and it’s nothing like how it use to be when I was a kid, makes me sad

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BBSL

The building looks nice architecturally — and housing’s always needed, not to mention the parking…I just hope there’s publicly accessible space like an indoor atrium or outdoor garden!!

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Justine Marie Vickers

This is a god damn shame. This should never have been allowed to go so far. How about restoring the theater and bringing some culture back into this neighborhood instead of just cramming more people here?

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Paula

There’s no way to restore the Rio kieths. The original guy who bought it I think his name was Huang he destroyed every art deco aspect of it. There were men’s and women’s bathroom areas and smoking areas. Mosaics everywhere. The ceilings were painted to look like the Heavens. There were different levels. There were dressing rooms for the vaudeville acts on the gorgeous stage. Worse than that. Guangzhou had to stop whatever he was doing brcsusevof legal redtape. And then the vandelism began. Vandals ripped out every remaining vestige of what once was. Thy set things on fire. It just honestly rotted out now. Very sad

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Steve

How is that different than what ISIS did in removing landmarks?

This is happening the “modern” way and no one will condemn it, because it’s all about the money.

Hypocrites!

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Mike hunt

What happened to other Chinese developer who split diesel all over lobby to change statis of landmark? Now u r granting another Mickey mouse developer to mess up the neighborhood!!!

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Gayle Addison

We have no respect for our history, money and greed that’s all we know. People who come in from other countries don’t respect our history because we have none.

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Just a Kid From Queens

Damn shame. Really wish someone had renovated it and reopened it as a movie theater. Its been a husk for decades and now it’ll be an ugly residential building.

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Sara Ross

Just what Flushing needs – more people to jam onto the 7 train and into the schools.

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