Loews Pitkin restored! Movie palace now houses charter school, retail

 A ribbon cutting is planned on Sept. 13 for the recently restored Loews Pitkin Theater in Brownsville.

Developer POKO Partners LLC, based in Port Chester, will celebrate the rebirth of the landmark building, at 1501 Pitkin Ave., along with residents at 1 p.m.
POKO has transformed the structure into a mixed-use building featuring a 130,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility for Brownsville Ascend Charter School, managed by Ascend Learning. Known as a high-performing, college-preparatory school it is occupying seven of the eight floors in the building, with a DEALS store anchoring 10,500 square feet of the 12,500 square feet prime retail space on the ground floor, according to Ken Olson, POKO president and CEO.

The completion of this project is a key milestone in the revitalization of the once vibrant Pitkin Avenue corridor.

According to Olson, the Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group helped the $43.3-million adaptive reuse project get financed under the New Markets Tax Credit program with financing provided by Goldman Sachs and the Seedco Financial Services Inc., the Nonprofit Finance Fund, Carver Community Development Corp. and The Rose Urban Green Fund. 

“During a challenging economic environment, POKO Partners collaborated with a strong group of investors who share a common goal of supporting community-based economic development,” Olson said.
The Loews Pitkin Theater before restoration. Image courtesy of POKO

He also noted that the theater project embodies POKO’s core values of revitalizing neighborhoods and enhancing communities through positive and responsible real estate development.

“We have brought together an amazing team of investors and partners who are confident in the future of the Brownsville neighborhood.”

Designed as an engine for sustainable economic growth, the Loews Pitkin project’s greatest impact on the economy will derive from the expansion of Brownsville Ascend Charter School in the heart of the community. Approximately 160 construction-related jobs were created during the renovation. Ascend staff members will expand from 55 to 118 when the school reaches full enrollment and approximately 20 full-time retail jobs are projected to follow.

The Loews Pitkin has “a grand history and a prominent place in local memory.” according to details received by the Eagle. Jackie Gleason, Milton Berle and Humphrey Bogart once graced the stage, and Al Jolson had his last performance there. Image courtesy of POKO Partners

In its heyday as a grand movie palace, “patrons enjoyed a sense of luxury with the opulent carved staircase, the koi pond in the lobby, the crystal chandeliers, and the dimly lit balconies under a domed ceiling depicting a cloudy, starry sky.”
After decades of being the cultural center of the community, the theater entered into a long period of decline and eventually closed in 1969. In the ensuing years, it suffered considerable interior and exterior damage.
Restoration and Design
The new facility was designed by two firms — Kitchen & Associates, based in Collingswood, N.J.; and Andersen-Miller Design of Manhattan, a firm that specializes in architectural and interior design services.

“The renovation of the Loews Pitkin preserved many architectural details, including the terra-cotta ornamentation, while providing light-filled spaces to support the new uses of the building,” said Olson. “Modern energy-efficient and eco-friendly elements are included. The original detailed neoclassical and Art Deco-themed cornices, pilasters, and niches have been restored.