What’s the opposite of “Ta Da”? After seven years of real estate speculation and many grandiose renderings, the construction fencing came down from Thor Equities first-ever new construction in Coney Island (flea market tents don’t count) to reveal a sterile-looking building suited for a suburban mall. It’s located on the southeast corner of Surf and Stillwell, the gateway to Coney’s Beach and Boardwalk as well as Scream Zone’s roller coasters and thrill rides.
The generic new building is the first sight visitors see in Coney Island as they exit Stillwell Terminal. We’d be surprised if it contains any rides, arcades or carny games. During the construction, Thor Equities had a sign atop the fence touting “CONEY ISLAND – The RETAIL RIDE of a LIFETIME – for leasing contact…”
The building has yet to sport any signs of tenants, but the Coney Island Rumor Mill has been saying for months that a Johnny Rockets (“The Original Hamburger,” founded in 1986 in L.A.) is coming to the Surf Avenue side. Hat retailer Lids–too bad it’s not the quirky Susquehanna Hat Company that HBO’s Bored to Death brought to Jones Walk/Bagel Street–is rumored for one of the stores. If it’s true, we’ll find out soon enough: Coney Island’s opening day is just two months away. Memorial Day is in four months. What would you like to see on this corner across the street from the iconic Nathan’s Famous?
It’s not as if we expected a Freakenspiel carousel and water fountain topped by a pyrotechnic elephant. That concept was part of Joe Sitt’s grandiose pitch back in 2005. Just for fun, check out the “Coney Island Rendering Hit Parade Pop Quiz,” a 2007 post by Brooklyn’s Blogfather Bob Guskind on the real estate blog Curbed. A lot has changed in the seven years since the real estate speculator began buying up property in Coney Island’s amusement zone. Sitt’s new building was reportedly built with a foundation suitable for a much taller structure. The site was one of four on the south side of Surf rezoned by the City in 2009 for a 30-story hotel.
The Henderson Music Hall stood on this corner for more than a century until Sitt had it demolished along with two other buildings in 2010, putting an end to Save Coney Island’s efforts to create an historic district. The Henderson was the longtime home of Popeye’s Chicken, the Fascination video game arcade, Velocity Nightclub and amusement games like Shoot Out the Star (open year round!), Clown Water Race and Balloon Dart. All lost their leases or were evicted. The old tenants are not expected to return to the new building, where rents are said to be over $100 per square foot, according to the rumor mill. Popeye’s found a new space a few doors down in the Popper Building for one third the price of what Thor was said to have asked for the equivalent of their former space.
In April 2010, Thor Equities released this rendering of a cheesy looking temporary one-story building occupied by hamburger and taco food joints. And a statement: “With the work we are commencing today, by Memorial Day, 2011, all of our parcels along Surf Avenue are scheduled to be activated with family-friendly games, food, shopping and other activities that visitors to, and residents of, Coney are clamoring for….”
Related posts on ATZ…
September 9, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: Faber’s Fascination Goes Dark After 50 Years