Nov. 23, 2015 By Laura A. Shepard
The end is looming for the ornate but decrepit vacant movie theater on 82nd Street, as its soon-to-be new owner plans to demolish it within the next few months.
The property, located at 40-31 82nd St., is currently owned by Sona Realty Corp. It is under contract with Sun Equity Partners, according to David Alani of Inline Realty, which is brokering the deal.
Sun Equity Partners plans to demolish, rebuild and lease the space.
Demolition of the structure is necessary because it is “not salvageable in its current state; it’s too dangerous and not up to code,” Alani said.
No demolition permits have yet been filed with the Department of Buildings; Sun Equity Partners director of operations Abe Tress said they plan to file in January.
Tress declined to disclose the amount of the property transaction, but explained that it is complicated because Sona Realty has about 13 partners.
While the formal closing would not be until April, being under contract means that Sun Equity legally controls the property, Tress said.
Currently, Inline Realty has a sign over the theater marquee advertising two floors of retail space.
Alani said Sun Equity wants to bring in a combination of national retailers and local mom and pop shops and that several local businesses have already reached out and shown strong interest. They are open to community suggestions and are “trying to bring tenants that will improve the neighborhood,” he added.
If a larger tenant, such as a school or hospital shows an interest, Sun Equity Partners may consider creating a community-use building, up to six stories as opposed to only two, and housing classrooms or medical offices on the upper floors. Tress said that the basement may be used for retail.
Alani said that Sun Equity has reached out to the Department of Education to see about putting in a public school or charter school, as well as Elmhurst hospital.
Sun Equity Partners is a newcomer to Jackson Heights. The company, which formed in 2010, is headquartered at 31 West 34th St. in Manhattan and owns property in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Manhattan.
“We look to redevelop distressed retail properties so this was a perfect opportunity,” Tress explained. “It’s a great opportunity for development.”
“The rendering on display is a bit uninspiring when compared to the space where the theater is located,” Leslie Ramos, director of the 82nd Street Partnership, said, referring to the Inline Realty sign hanging on the building. “The rest could use an upgrade. I’m hoping that the final project is more creative architecturally and that it will contain spaces for community programming and offices.”
“The building will be a huge loss. With its demolition, part of the community’s history will be gone,” Ramos added. “Whatever they decide to do, it would be great if they could integrate the theater facade and entryway into the final project.”
The contract process is still in the preliminary stages, but Tress said that Sun Equity Partners will solicit community input closer to the official closing.
As for restoring a movie theater to the location, he said that they have reached out to several movie operators, but have not received any responses so far.
He hopes that the site will ultimately be ready for occupancy by May 2017.