RKO Keith’s project has a partner


| mchan@queenscourier.com |

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Plans to revamp a historic and long-stagnant Flushing landmark are chugging full steam ahead, officials said, despite rumors that the latest owner of the RKO Keith’s Theatre will sell the site.

According to Michael Nussbaum, a spokesperson for Patrick Thompson — who bought the foreclosed Northern Boulevard property for $20 million in 2010 — the developer is still committed to the project and has no plans to put the property on the market.

In fact, Nussbaum said Thompson now has the additional support of an “interested party” working with him to make sure his $160 million vision sees the light of day.

“In this market place, it’s very difficult to do a project of this size and go at it alone,” Nussbaum said. “When there are partners that want to come into a project like this, if they meet the qualifications, they are more than welcomed.”

The spokesperson would not identify the new financial backer, but said Thompson has “always had relationships with a number of individuals who wished to be his partner on this project.”

Nussbaum said plans to redevelop the vacant movie house into apartments and shops are right on track. The developer is still looking to restore RKO Keith’s historic lobby while building a 17-story tower with stores, 357 rental apartments and a community center.

“Everything is still moving forward. This has been a project that has taken 25 years to come into fruition. We’re looking forward to finally putting a shovel in the ground,” he said.

While Thompson expects the project to be completed in early 2015, Nussbaum said there is no set time frame yet as to when work will begin.

“It will begin sooner than later,” he said.

Meanwhile, theatre preservationists said they’re out of the loop with the project’s plans and remain doubtful — yet hopeful — that constructive work will ensue.

“At this point, we just don’t know what to believe anymore, but I’m giving the developer the benefit of the doubt,” said Rick Gallo, cofounder of Friends of the RKO Keith’s. “I don’t think — in this market — that anybody is going to invest millions of dollars in that area. It just doesn’t make sense to put up another building, but I would love to see exactly what they have planned. I don’t know if they’re going to go through with it. If he does have a financial backer, I hope they go forward. As long as he keeps to his word, that will be fine.”