It’s Marty’s pop-up theater!
The city will transform the landmarked-but-vacant Childs Restaurant and an adjoining lot on the Coney Island Boardwalk into an amphitheater with a removable mesh roof and public park that will feature a high-end eatery and rooftop cafe — fulfilling Borough President Markowitz’s once-controversial dream of creating a performance space in his beloved Coney Island.
“I wanted to build something like this for many years, and the plans were put on hold because there were problems with the location,” Markowitz said on Tuesday. “This location will work for Coney Island.”
The city plans to spend $50 million to buy the building and adjacent land along the Boardwalk between W. 21st and W. 22nd streets, from its owner, iStar Financial, knock a hole in the side of the restaurant to make room for a stage, and manicure the land around it that will act as a park when there aren’t any shows, and seating for 5,000 when there are.
iStar will then lease the facility from the city until 2025 for an unspecified amount of money, and rent out the venue, which will host up to 40 concerts from May to October, 15 of which well be free and 25 paid.
The semi-circular seating bowl will sit beneath a huge billowing tent, and be located outside the Childs Building on the side nearest W. 22nd Street. During the fall and winter, the tent fabric will come down, and the supporting trusses will light up.
In the winter months, sliding doors will keep out the cold as the stage continues to entertain customers at the year-round restaurant inside the building.
The restaurant will also have an open-air outpost on the roof of the building — much like the original Childs Restaurant.
The design team vowed to remain true to the original Childs design in the rest of the proposal. The plan will restore the classic Greek-, Spanish-, and maritime-influenced terra-cotta detailing along the Boardwalk and W. 21st Street sides of the building. In addition, flags will once again fly along the rooftop.
“We’re able to blend the historic character of this building into the new elements,” said architect Randolph Gerner.
The amphitheater plan is the culmination of a longtime dream of Markowitz, who initially tried — and failed — in 2009 to get a modern building put in Asser Levy Park to house his free summer concert series in 2009. Public protest blocked the structure that resembling a potato chip, and Markowitz announced his plan to transform the Childs Building into a performance space at his 2013 State of the Borough address.
Even residents who fought Markowitz original plan agreed that the beachfront location is a much better place to put a concert stage.
“This is a beautiful building, and its great to see that it will be used again,” said Ida Sanoff, who sued to block the borough president’s plan for Asser-Levy, successfully arguing that concert there routinely broke noise codes.
The original Childs Restaurant operated inside the building from 1923 to 1947, serving straightforward fare with an emphasis on eggs and dairy. Weiss said iStar would hire an upscale operator to run the new eatery.
The proposal, which will also convert the now-empty lots on either side of W. 22nd Street will be combined into a public greenspace with lush lawns, winding paths, gardens, playground equipment, privately-run concessions, and seating areas, must go before the city Landmarks Commission and a city Land Use Review hearing, which should be completed by the end of this year. If all goes according to plan, the amphitheater would open in 2015.