The rebirth of the RKO Keith Theater is more reality than Hollywood fantasy – reports that it will be redeveloped into apartments and shops are based on a true story.
Developer Patrick Thompson purchased the Flushing landmark for $20 million and plans to restore the historic lobby while building a 17-story tower with stores, 357 rental apartments and a community center. Thompson’s spokesperson Michael Nussbaum said that most of the necessary approvals have been obtained and that demolition will most likely begin in the first quarter of 2012.
Nussbaum also said previously published reports stating that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rejected the project due to its height were misleading. The project is in close proximity to LaGuardia Airport, but Nussbaum believes that the FAA will find that the development does not disrupt flight patterns.
“The previous owner submitted a proposal to the FAA and got their approval. The plans we submitted are the same as the ones they submitted,” said Nussbaum, explaining that the previous owner’s approval from the FAA had expired and that Thompson simply needs to resubmit. “This process was triggered by us because we had to apply for a new approval.”
Nussbaum said that he is confident that Thompson will get the same approval that the previous owner, Shaya Boymelgreen, got in 2003. The FAA did send a letter to Thompson calling the height “hazardous,” but both Nussbaum and a spokesperson from the FAA said doing so is standard operating procedure for any new structure that has not yet been approved.
Thompson has hired an FAA consultant, who will go through the process – and said that it should take anywhere from 30 to 60 days to get an approval.
“The building’s height has not changed one inch and as far as we know LaGuardia’s flight pattern has not changed,” said Nussbaum. “We expect the FAA to come to the same conclusion they did in 2003.”
The project already has approvals from the Board of Standards and Appeals, as well as Community Board 7. Thompson has said that he expects completion of the project in early 2015.