Chinese firm to redevelop landmark Flushing theater

Updated: 2016-08-04 14:19


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The chance to build high-end condominiums in a booming Chinatown has attracted Xinyuan Real Estate Co Ltd into another New York City project.

Xinyuan, one of the first Chinese developers to enter the US market, on Monday announced the acquisition of the RKO Keith's Theater, a landmark movie palace located in the Flushing neighborhood of Queens, New York.

Xinyuan plans to tear down most of the building and construct a 269-unit condominium tower.

"We expect this development will be appealing to both local and foreign buyers and investors. This is one of the fastest-growing neighborhoods in New York City, with a clear shortage of higher-end condo product.

"The area is home to the second-largest Chinatown outside of Asia. We anticipate we'll be able to sell these units both in the US and China," George Liu, chief financial officer for Xinyuan, wrote in an email.

Xinyuan purchased the theater — built in 1928 — from JK Equities LLC for $66 million. JK acquired the property three years ago for about $30 million. The theater has been closed since the mid-1980s.

It will be Xinyuan's third condo project in New York. The company is involved in the 216-unit Oosten in Williamsburg in Brooklyn and a planned 100-unit project at a site in Manhattan.

"This development makes Xinyuan one of the most active developers in New York City with approximately 1million square feet of buildings under construction in three boroughs. Flushing is a rising market, and this neighborhood has tremendous demand for quality modern residential units," Liu said.

Once the condos are built, the 372,598-square-foot mixed-use development will have retail space on the ground floor and second floor.

"This development has been prepared by the architectural firm of Pei Cobb Freed, I.M. Pei's architectural firm that designed the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong, with plans for 269 modern condo residences," Liu said.

"This will be a mid-rise, modern condominium building with amenities such as a 24-hour doorman, gym, tenant lounge, 305-space parking garage and landscaped courtyard as well as a large ground-floor and second-floor retail space," he said.

Flushing, in the north-central part of the borough of Queens, has supplanted Manhattan's Chinatown as the most populous in New York with a population of 33,536 Chinese, according to the 2010 Census. Manhattan's Chinatown has nearly 29,000, according to the Asian American Federation, a Manhattan nonprofit.

Founded in 1997 and based in Beijing, Xinyuan has been active in real estate development in California, Nevada and New York. It had an initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange in 2007, with institutional private equity backers like Blue Ridge Capital and Sam Zell's Equity International.

In China, the company had 21 active development projects by the end of 2015 in key markets like Beijing and Shanghai and also in several of China's second-tier cities like Jinan, Suzhou, Xi'an and Zhengzhou.