Two thumbs up: Civic gurus applaud builder’s proposed renovations to landmarked Shore Theater • Brooklyn Paper

Two thumbs up: Civic gurus applaud builder’s proposed renovations to landmarked Shore Theater

Shore Theater no more: The developer revitalizing Coney Island’s iconic Shore Theater at the corner of Surf and Stillwell avenues will abandon their previous plans to restore the playhouse and instead add a hotel, spa, and retail space to the site, according to plans filed earlier this summer with the Department of Buildings.
Photo by Steve Solomonson

They’re Shore this renovation will be a hit!

Coney Island civic gurus cheered a developer’s plans to restore the exterior of the landmarked Shore Theater to its former glory — even though the builder will completely gut the inside of the nearly century-old site as part of the job to transform it into a hotel and spa.

The new “multicultural, family-friendly” facility will be a far bigger boon for the neighborhood than the now-derelict theater building at Surf and Stillwell avenues, attracting visitors to Coney year-round when it opens, according to the architect who presented the makeover to members of Community Board 13’s Land Use Committee on Tuesday.

“Quite frankly, the building is in terrible shape right now. Parts of it are falling off,” said Randolph Gerner of Gerner Kronick and Valcarcel Architects. “Our goal is to restore the building, to make it a viable destination.”

Six Land Use Committee members unanimously voted to support the proposed exterior renovations, the former of which must go before the community board and city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission due to the property’s landmark status.

Planned exterior work on the split-level site — which is comprised of a seven-story tower and the attached four-story structure that formerly contained the theater — includes:

• Restoring the seven-story building’s original limestone base, which retail tenants replaced with sliding windows over the years.

• Replacing decaying parts of the taller building’s brick façade.

• Replacing all of the taller building’s windows, which are currently boarded up.

• Removing the taller building’s decrepit seventh-story balcony and replacing it with a replica.

• Flattening the shorter building’s rooftop atop the former theater to make way for an outdoor terrace with a pool, according to Gerner, who said the finished product would recall the splendor of the original structure.

“The idea is to bring it back to what it once was,” he said.

Following the Land Use Committee’s vote, the panel’s full board will weigh in on the plans before sending its recommendation to the Landmarks Commission, which will issue its own decision on the proposal at a public hearing sometime early next year, according to Gerner.

Changes to the property’s interior, however, do not require the preservationists’ approval, because the city did not protect its insides when designating it an individual landmark back in 2010.

Bigwigs at real-estate firm Pye Properties — who scooped up the Shore Theater for $14 million in 2016 — want to stick the spa and a parking garage with space for 40–50 cars inside the property’s four-story building where Vaudeville acts once performed on the theater’s stage, and refashion the seven-story tower into a more than 50 room lodge.

And atop the taller building — which formerly contained offices, according to the unelected Mayor of Coney Island, Dick Zigun — the developer plans to open a year-round restaurant enclosed by glass bricks, its reps said at the community-board meeting. The Shore Theater — which opened as Loew’s Coney Island in 1925, and later screened X-rated movies in 1972 under the ownership of the Brandt Company — has been dormant for decades, ever since Kansas Fried Chicken mogul Horace Bullard purchased the property in 1978 and put it up for sale soon after, when the state squashed his plans to install a hotel and casino there.

But Bullard died in 2013 before he could offload the building, and the squalid site he left to his heirs drew criticism from Coney Island advocates as it deteriorated into a homeless encampment in recent years.

In 2015, officials’ announcement that the city would scoop up other derelict Coney properties that Bullard bequeathed to his next of kin reignited calls to seize the Shore Theater using eminent domain, but Pye leaders stepped in and bought the site the next year.

CB13’s full board will weigh in on the exterior renovation plans at a Dec. 19 meeting of the panel, a purely advisory vote that the Landmarks Commission will consider in making its final decision.

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.

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