Eye On Real Estate
By Lore Croghan
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Shore Theater, a locked-up landmark by the sea, has would-be buyers longing to bring it back to life.
But they can't get owner Jasmine Bullard to give them the time of day.
Real estate investors, preservationists and Coney Island business boosters all wonder what will happen next to the long-shuttered Coney Island picture palace, which the late Horace Bullard's daughter inherited when he succumbed to Lou Gehrig's disease in April 2013.
Her father, a remarkable figure in Coney Island's redevelopment saga, had the seven-story neo-Renaissance Revival theater and office building at 1301 Surf Ave. on the market at the time of his passing.
It was one of the last holdings left in the portfolio of the Harlem-born real estate investor, who bought up a swath of the Coney Island waterfront in the 1970s and 1980s.
He devised big plans to recreate Steeplechase Park — and turn the Shore Theater into a hotel and casino, plans that did not come to fruition.
In the setbacks he suffered as a developer, the most shocking was the infamous — and illegal — demolition of his Thunderbolt roller coaster by the Giuliani administration in 2000.
Last summer, his heir Jasmine took the Shore Theater off the sale market. A year later, brokers are still trying to convince her to entertain offers from deep-pocketed investors.
“I have clients who are ready, willing and able to write a check for the Shore today,” broker Joe Vitacco told Eye on Real Estate.
He has tried to submit purchase offers to her, but in vain: “She won't even look at them.”
Vitacco said he has four “solid” suitors for the Shore Theater:
* A “very well known restaurateur” from Manhattan who wants to build a cooking school downstairs and a restaurant on the top two floors.
“The view from the seventh floor is magnificent,” he said, and there's a Juliet balcony where diners would be able to watch the Brooklyn Cyclones playing baseball at MCU Park.
* A “nationally known athlete” who would turn the Shore back into a movie theater — and no, it's not Magic Johnson (who isn't actively involved in Magic Johnson Theatres' operations these days, anyway).
* A billionaire with a home in Brooklyn who “thinks it's a beautiful building and should be restored,” Vitacco said.
This interested party made an offer when Horace Bullard was alive, but it wasn't high enough. Now, “he's willing to come to the table with more money,” the broker said.
* A real estate developer who is involved in Coney Island.
Vitacco marketed Horace Bullard's properties for about a decade. When the Shore was Vitacco's listing, the asking price was $12 million.
He vowed to keep on trying to get through to Jasmine Bullard.
“I've got a lot of patience,” he said.
“A primary motive for me is that Horace's dream should come true. He had some great ideas.”
Commercial agent Richard DiPietro of Coldwell Banker Reliable received an offer from a group of investors who would pay for renovations but ask for an equity stake in the building.
“Ms. Bullard could maintain ownership, enjoy the profits — and pursue her dad's vision and be a part of it,” he said. But he has been unable to reach her.
He estimates that renovating the 115,000-square-foot building could cost approximately $300 to $500 per square foot, about $35 million.
Her late father hired DiPietro in January 2013 to market the Shore. Before Horace Bullard's death, DiPietro got at least 10 written purchase offers with proof of funds.
When he contacted Jasmine Bullard several weeks after her father's passing, she told him to take the property off the market.
Since then, DiPietro has gotten 63 inquiries about the property from brokers, prospective buyers or investors interested in seeking a partial stake in it.
Eye on Real Estate also heard from other sources about an intriguing lease proposal for the Shore that didn't pan out.
They told us the Alliance for Coney Island was involved in the proposal last year to rent the theater and restore it with Federal funds from the Neighborhood Game-Changer Investment Competition, a post-Hurricane Sandy recovery program administered by the city Economic Development Corp.
Jasmine Bullard didn't respond to our calls by deadline. So we don't know if she has devised a plan for the vacant property that had belonged to her father since 1979.
We do know that if she decides she is willing to sell the Shore or work with equity partners, she has many, many options.
The theater, situated on the corner of Stillwell Avenue a block from the boardwalk and beach, was the Loew's Coney Island for the first four decades of its existence. It was a glamorous picture palace from the golden age of grand movie theaters.
Some of the architectural grandeur inside the nearly 2,400-seat theater remains intact — see related story. And the place was built to last.
“It's built like a bomb shelter of concrete and steel,” said Vitacco.
“It is something worth restoring and bringing back to the community. It could be restored like the Loew's Kings.”
That historic cinema in Flatbush is undergoing a meticulous overhaul by ACE Theatrical Group.