UPDATED: Kings Theatre reopening sparks gentrification fear • Brooklyn Paper

UPDATED: Kings Theatre reopening sparks gentrification fear

Sold out: The Kings Theatre’s Diana Ross show is sold out, but there will be open houses on Jan. 27 and Feb. 7.
Photo by Paul Martinka

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 that restored it to its grandiose original look, and repurposed 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?”

The head of the theater did not directly respond to whether the venue could trigger a rent spike, but said that the theater will bring more shoppers to local businesses, and that management wants nothing but good things for the area.

“We’re committed to ensuring the Theatre’s return has a positive impact on Flatbush,” said Matthew Wolf, executive director, in the statement.

Most of the rest of the talk at the opening was optimistic.

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.

Kings Theatre Open house (1027 Flatbush Ave. between Duryea Place and Tilden Avenue in Flatbush, www.kings‌theat‌re.com). Feb. 7, noon to 4 pm. Tickets not yet available.

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