Sept. 22, 2016 By Hannah Wulkan
The vacant movie theater in Jackson Heights is about to be reborn as a community destination.
The Jackson Theater at 40-31 82nd Street has been empty since it closed in 2014, but now the Heskel Group has plans to turn the property in to a retail space, and possibly also a school.
The Sun Equity Partners and the Heskel Group closed on the property last week for $27 million, and have plans to build a new 160,000-square-foot building.
“The theater has been defunct for a long time, and we are trying to redevelop the area by taking non-functional buildings and creating new retail space and adhering to the needs and demands of the community,” said Yeheskel Elias, the CEO of the Heskel Group.
Elias said that he plans to have about 45,000 square feet of retail space on the bottom floor of the building, and is in early talks with the City to build an elementary school on the upper levels, which will contain at least 100,000 square feet. He said that though those discussions are still early, he feels that a school would be in the best interest of the community, because Jackson Heights has such a dense population.
He added that if the upper floors do not end up being a school, he thinks it is likely that they will be occupied by medical practices.
“We want to bring in a retailer that caters to the cost of living in the area and meets the needs of the local residents,” Elias said. “We’re trying to do something for the underserved, while also trying to put up a building that is going to be the wow factor for Jackson heights.”
Elias said that he hopes to extend the commercial corridor of 82nd Street a block further than it currently goes by bringing the new building to the neighborhood.
He and his son, Brandon Elias, are working together on development, he said, combining “old values with new fashion.”
Elias said that he hopes to fast track the project, and aims to begin demolition on the standing theater by the end of the year if permits allow. He added that he hopes to complete the building by the middle of 2018.
“The main goal is to satisfy needs of the community and the City of New York,” he said.