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Coney Island building

View of Thor Equities Vacant Building from Stillwell Terminal in Coney Island on January 29, 2012. The building is currently boarded up with a plywood mural. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

A press release from Thor Equities offers potential good news for Brooklyn retailers and restaurateurs who’d like to open a pop-up store or get a foot in the door of the new Coney Island: “Thor To Add Local Flavor To Coney Island By Leasing Major Surf Avenue Parcels To Local Brooklyn Merchants At Reduced Rents For 2013.” The idea is to fully lease Joe Sitt’s new building at Surf and Stillwell for the summer of 2013.

Vacant since its unveiling last January, the sterile looking building was soon boarded up with plywood. It is currently dressed up with a Funny Face mural and a sign advertising “CONEY ISLAND – The RETAIL RIDE of a LIFETIME” with a phone number to call for leasing opportunities.

New Coney Island ‘Funny Face’ Mural on Thor Equities Building at Surf and Stillwell. May 28, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

As ATZ reported last week, Johnny Rockets, Red Mango and Applebee’s franchisees recently signed leases with property owners on the north side of Surf, where sources said the rent was one third the price of Thor’s building on the south side. How enticing is Thor’s rent reduction?

“While each location within the 15,000 square foot property is taken on a case-by-case basis, generally Sitt is reducing each unit in the vicinity of about 40 per cent,” Thor spokesperson Jaclyn Rothenberg told ATZ. “The building is divided into four storefronts. Three are vacant and one has been leased to a national company.” In addition, the Eldorado Bumper Cars and Arcade, which is a couple of doors away in a building purchased last year by Thor Equities, will also be the beneficiary of a rent reduction. This couldn’t have come at a better time since the Eldorado was damaged by Sandy and needs costly repairs to reopen.

Eldorado Auto Skooters

Eldorado Auto Skooters Sign by Steve Powers, Surf Avenue in Coney Island. September 5, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

On December 15th, Thor Equities filed plans with the Department of Buildings for general construction for a new retail build-out inclusive of partitions and installation of mechanical equipment, duct work and plumbing fixtures. The original floorplan for 1232 Surf promised more than a dozen spaces including a row of 250-square-foot spaces on the Bowery side, outdoor seating on Henderson Walk and a 3,050 square foot roof deck.

Thor is teaming up with the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce to help recruit tenants, according to Chamber president Carlo Scissura. “This program is especially important in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and will go a long way in making sure that Coney Island remains a vibrant neighborhood and tourist attraction as well as a place where small businesses can thrive and Brooklynites can get jobs,” said Scissura.

Coney Island building

Thor’s Coney Island: Stillwell Avenue side of Joe Sitt’s new building. January 29, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The biggest surprise of the press release was what Thor CEO Joe Sitt had to say about chains vs local businesses: “Coney Island’s popularity has reached record proportions, but we can never forget what got us here – local, ahead-of-their-time business owners who brought flair, hipness and edge to the People’s Playground,” Sitt said. “While it is wonderful that national chains are now coming to Coney, providing needed jobs and year-round revenue to the community, we must always remember the history of this iconic neighborhood.”

In the documentary “Zipper,” Joe Sitt reads a list of national chains that he wants to bring to the new Coney Island. It sounds like Any Vacation Spot USA: Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, Dave and Buster’s, Hard Rock, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, Howie’s Game Factory, Build-A-Bear Workshop. Has Sitt, who was reviled in 2008 as the Grinch who stole Coney Island for locking out small business owners on Christmas Eve, evolved into a Santa for Mom-and-Pops? Hey, we hope so. Only time and the new building’s tenants will tell.

Thinkwell rendering

Thinkwell’s rendering for Thor’s Temporary One-Story Building in Coney Island. April 2010

The one-story building at 1232 Surf Avenue is Thor Equities’ first new construction in Coney Island. It was built on the site of the century-old Henderson Music Hall, which was doomed when the City rezoned the parcel for a high-rise “hotel” in July 2009. The City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission denied landmark designation and also declined to create a historic district, which would have created tax incentives to rehab the building.

Henderson’s began as a restaurant at Bowery and Henderson Walk in 1881 and included a music hall featuring such music and vaudeville acts as Al Jolson, the Marx Brothers, and Sophie Tucker. From 1926 to 1984, the building housed the World in Wax Musee. Tenants who lost their leases after Thor bought the property or due to the demolition in 2010 include the Velocity Nightclub and Popeye’s Chicken, which has since relocated to the Popper Building. The Fascination arcade owner moved his business (renamed Game World) to another Thor-owned property on Surf.

Faber's Fascination

Last Night at Faber’s, Coney Island. September 6, 2010. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

One of the saddest losses was the Fascination Arcade’s bare bulb sign which dated back to the 1930s. It was illuminated year-round and was a welcome sight to see upon exiting Stillwell Terminal. Also missed are the individually owned concession games like Shoot Out The Star, Balloon Raceing [sic] and the Balloon Dart on the Stillwell and Bowery sides of the building. Is there anyone besides this former carny kid and game operator who is going to lament the fact that these old school amusements are gone forever from this corner of Coney Island?

Baloon Dart

Balloon Dart, on the Bowery in Coney Island.May 26, 2008. This game did not reopen in 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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Related posts on ATZ…

December 19, 2012: Will Coney Island’s Surf Ave Become a Mecca for Franchises?

November 20, 2012: Coney Island Post-Sandy: Mini-Golf or Roller Rink to Replace Denny’s?

October 7, 2012: ATZ’s Big Wish List for the New Coney Island

September 12, 2010: Video: Coney Island’s Faber’s Fascination by Charles Denson

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