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Kings Theatre reopening sparks gentrification fear

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Photo gallery

1/6
ALL OF THE LIGHTS: The lights are finally on and the curtains in place at the restored Kings Theatre.
2/6
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.
3/6
RAISE THE ROOF: The roof of the auditorium features customizable LED lights. The red curtains were among the last items to be installed.
4/6
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.
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SOFT TOUCH: The carpet and wall fabric was modeled after the adornments in the theater when it opened in 1929.
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GLOW TEAM: One-ton chandeliers loom over the lobby.

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.

Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018: Quote from Matthew Wolf added.
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Reasonable discourse

Mike from Williamsburg says:
It's a shame that people have to fear nice things.
Jan. 26, 2015, 9:53 am
hometaurus says:
Great news for the brooklyn community, Culture and art is so important for the residents. find homes for sale in Ney York
Jan. 26, 2015, 9:54 am
Nancy from Bay Ridge says:
Wow! This looks great!
Jan. 26, 2015, 10:15 am
Michael says:
Fear indeed - surely you can't seriously mean that people preffered this wonderful building to lie empty and decay, rather than host fantastic shows and be preserved!
People fear nicer buisnesses and a diverse crowd? They sound like racists to me.
This part Of Flatbush has had many different characteristics over the past 100 years. The present residents can still remember when they arrived in this neighborhood!
Jan. 26, 2015, 2:17 pm
Robert from Flatbush says:
"The present residents can still remember when they arrived in this neighborhood!"

Wrong, Michael. I can't remember the day my parents brought me home from Brookdale Hospital. Or anything much of that first year I lived in Flatbush.

And my grandmother has Alzheimer's and she can't remember when she arrived here, either, but it was about 1968.
Jan. 26, 2015, 3:21 pm

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