New York City in losing yet another independent cinema. The Lower East Side’s Landmark Sunshine Cinema, which sits on East Houston, is slated for demolition. On Wednesday, the new owners of the building filed plans with the Department of Buildings to demolish the three-story structure.
Back in May, developers East End Capital and K Property Group purchased the property from Steven Goldman for $31.5 million. At the time, the plan was to enlarge the space and develop it into a mixed-use property with ground floor retail and offices, which would be housed on the upper floors; that idea has since been scrapped and developers are now looking to carry out a full demolition.
The East End Capital website provides us with an idea of what will take the place of the 108-year-old theater, known for its classic architecture — portions of which date back 180 years, according to The Lo-Down.
Currently home to the Sunshine Theater, whose lease expires in early 2018, East End is planning to re-develop the building into a mixed-use retail and office project. While pursuing tenants interested in utilizing the structure in its current form, work is also underway for a new, best-in-class office building with retail at the base – a first in the rapidly evolving Lower East Side. 139 East Houston will offer cutting-edge design from Roger Ferris Architecture, huge windows with expansive views, high ceilings and column-free efficient space – all on top of a subway stop in a unique and exciting location. Ground breaking is expected in the second quarter of 2018.
According to Curbed NY, the building has long served as a Vaudeville theater and venue for screenings before Sunshine Cinema was opened in 2001 by the Landmark Theatre chain. Over the years, it has been repurposed several times: in 1908, it became the Houston Athletic Center and the Houston Hippodrome (1909) for Yiddish vaudeville acts and films. Nine years later, the property changed ownership and was renamed the Sunshine before transforming yet again into the Chopin Theatre in the late 1930s.
When the building shuttered in 1945, it was utilized as storage warehouse into the mid-1990’s. More recently, the Landmarks Theatre spent $12 million on its renovation in 2001, but rising rents in the neighborhood have been problematic.