RKO Keith’s Theater, a New York City historic landmark that has been abandoned for almost four decades, has found a new savior: NYSE-listed Chinese developer Xinyuan has purchased the site in Flushing, Queens, for $66 million, with plans to build a mixed-use tower comprising 16 stories and 269 condominium units.
Last week, Beijing-based Xinyuan told Mansion Global that it was about to complete the acquisition of a third site in New York, presumably in Queens, following its first residential project, Oosten, in Brooklyn and a planned condominium building in Manhattan.
John Liang, managing director of Xinyuan’s U.S. operations, said building a mid-level luxury condominium in Flushing seems a natural choice for Xinyuan. “Another project in Brooklyn would expose us to concentration risk,” Mr. Liang said. “Now we have three projects in prime locations of the three most economically viable boroughs in New York.”
Yong Zhang, Xinyuan’s chairman, said in a statement that this project is ideally situated, “particularly as there is a shortage of inventory in the higher-end condominium segment” in Flushing, Queens.
Indeed, Queens has been attracting more luxury buyers seeking deals in the boroughs outside Manhattan. According to the latest Douglas Elliman report, the median price of luxury properties in Queens rose 10% in the second quarter of the year, to $1.1 million, compared with the first quarter of 2016.
In the second quarter, there were 269 luxury property sales, defined as the top 10% of the market, in Queens, up from 252 in the first three month this year. Meanwhile, the new development condo market share increased to 1.3% from 1.1%.
By building a luxury condominium project that preserves the historic theater’s landmarked lobby and grand foyer, Xinyuan has an opportunity to “restore a piece of American history to its old glory, like it was almost 100 years ago,” Mr. Liang said. The modern condo tower, with its state-of-the-art amenities, will bring a new, more sophisticated clientele to the neighborhood from both New York and overseas, he predicted.
RKO Keith’s Theater was built in 1928 by famed theater architect Thomas W. Lamb, with the auditorium interior designed in a Spanish Baroque Revival style. Many stars, including Bob Hope, Jack Benny, the Marx Brothers, and Jerry Lewis, performed on stage in the theater, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982; its ticket lobby and grand foyer were landmarked by the city in 1984.
According to public record, the theater was closed in 1986 after Chinese businessman Thomas Huang acquired it for $3.4 million, intending to restructure it into office space or a shopping mall. It changed hands several times before an investment consortium led by JK Equities bought the property in 2013 for $30 million.
Xinyuan believes the $66 million purchase price reflects the current market. The site, located at 135-35 Northern Boulevard at the corner of Main Street, has approximately 372,598 gross buildable square feet, making the cost per square foot just over $175. Xinyuan is planning to offer condo units priced at $1,100 per square foot.
The architectural firm of Pei Cobb Freed is the designer on document. Planned amenities include a 24-hour doorman, gym, tenant lounge, resident-only parking garage and landscaped courtyard.
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