Kings Theatre reopening sparks gentrification fear

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ALL OF THE LIGHTS: The lights are finally on and the curtains in place at the restored Kings Theatre.
FACE THE MUSIC: Water damage from burst plumbing and a leaky roof forced restorers to recreate a whole side of the ornate plasterwork in the auditorium by taking molds of the other half.
RAISE THE ROOF: The roof of the auditorium features customizable LED lights. The red curtains were among the last items to be installed.
WATCH THE THRONES: Fleur-de-lis-emblazoned seats are reserved for high rollers who pay to reserve them. They come with more legroom and an express lane at the bar.
SOFT TOUCH: The carpet and wall fabric was modeled after the adornments in the theater when it opened in 1929.
GLOW TEAM: One-ton chandeliers loom over the lobby.

UPDATE: The opening events scheduled for Jan. 27 have been postponed due to severe weather. Check for the new date.

Pols want the reopened Kings Theatre to make Flatbush a destination on par with Manhattan’s most opulent cultural attractions, but a local business leader fears that would drive out mom-and-pop shops.

The former picture palace opened to the public for the first time on Jan. 23, ending two years of painstaking restoration work, restoring it to its grandiose original look, and repurposing it as a 3,000-seat performance venue. Pols on hand for the ribbon-cutting said that crowds coming to see acts such as Diana Ross and the Moscow Ballet will put the theater’s stretch of Flatbush Avenue between Tilden Avenue and Duryea Place on the map in a big way.

“This will be the new Lincoln Center of Brooklyn,” Flatbush Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte said.

Borough President Adams concurred, saying that “a cultural revival of central Brooklyn” will take place around the theater, where currently discount-clothing stores, national chain stores, and fast-food restaurants dominate.

But the new attention could potentially triple commercial rents, which would be bad news for small-business owners, according to the head of the Flatbush Development Corporation. The gentrification could spill over into residential real estate, too, she said.

“You have to sit back and hesitate a little bit and think about the long-term residents who are lower-income and have rent-stabilized housing,” the Corporation’s executive director Robin Redmond said. “What’s going to happen to them?”

Most talk at the event was optimistic, though.

Speakers at the ceremony remarked on how more than 100 jobs at the theater can employ young people in a space where their parents and grandparents recall milestones such as first dates and high school graduations.

The new roof, shining walnut walls, sparkling chandeliers, and adherence to the theater’s original, ornate French Renaissance Revival details impressed members of Community Board 14 as they took in the interior of what had been a neighborhood eyesore for nearly four decades.

“I can’t believe they did it all in two years,” said board member Dawn Walker. “People from the community are ecstatic, especially people my age.”

The restoration ran $95 million with taxpayers footing half of the bill. The rest was picked up by Kings Theatre Redevelopment Company — a consortium of Ace Theatrical Group, Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group, and the National Development Council. Ace will operate the theater under an agreement with the city Economic Development Corporation.

The theater will host a free open house and concert featuring the Brooklyn Ballet and Brooklyn Youth Orchestra on Jan. 27, followed by a sold-out Diana Ross concert on Feb. 3, and another open house on Feb. 7.

UPDATE: The opening events scheduled for Jan. 27 have been postponed due to severe weather. Check for the new date.

Kings Theatre opening events (1027 Flatbush Ave. between Duryea Place and Tilden Avenue in Flatbush, Concert on Jan. 27 at 8 pm. Free with RSVP. Open house on Feb. 7, noon to 4 pm. Tickets not yet available.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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