The city is looking for developers to renovate and operate the landmarked, long-derelict Loew’s Kings Theater—“the Kings” as locals called it back in the day—on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn. Designed in 1929 by Rapp and Rapp Architects, the 3,769-seat movie palace modeled after the Paris Opera House is the only one of the five “Wonder Theaters” Loew’s built in the city that has not been renovated or converted into a church.
Rehabilitating the majestic, rotting Art Deco building will not be cheap. It has remained shuttered since 1978—the city took it over in 1983—and the city’s Economic Development Corporation estimated that the project would cost a minimum of $70 million in the request for proposals it issued this week.
The roofs of the Loew’s retail spaces have collapsed and several of the walls have serious water damage; no interior maintenance has been done for three decades; and the building is teaming with asbestos, lead, and toxic mold. But the mahogany paneling and chandeliers are still in place.
In the RFP, the EDC is encouraging the 68,300-square-foot theater to be reused and potentially expanded to accommodate additional performance and rehearsal space for dance, theater, and music; meeting and event rooms; and an entertainment venue. The parcel also includes two adjacent, city-owned lots on East 22nd Street. The site is zoned for entertainment and restricted retail uses, and the RFP says any retail development included in the proposal must strengthen the neighborhood’s existing offerings.
There have been several aborted attempts to make-over the Loew’s. In 1990, the city’s public development corporation released a “Requests for Expressions of Interests,” the New York Times reported; and Magic Johnson planned to renovate it in 1999. Last December the city floated the idea again, but did not release projections on the cost or time-frame.
Even if developers bite this time, the project won’t be completed anytime in the near future or before Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz retires in 2009. But here’s a sweetener from a story in the Daily News: This might be one of the few construction projects in Brooklyn that seems unlikely to encounter much community opposition.