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Firm eyes Keith’s contract

A Manhattan real estate agent is lobbying the developer behind the proposed overhaul of the long-neglected RKO Keith’s Theatre to take on the services of a Chinese construction company for the project.

David Drezner, of Canterbury Financial Group, said Monday that he is hoping to convince Patrick Thompson, the project’s developer, to hire the firm — which he declined to name — to handle the financing and construction of the redevelopment.

The firm has up to $1 billion available to finance projects, Drezner said, and it is willing to lend Thompson the full $160 million for the project if he can guarantee that the company will have the exclusive contract for its construction.

“I have an Asian construction company who will put up $160 million just to do the construction, but they’d have to arrange a takeout so they make sure they get their money,” Drezner said, later confirming that the company is based in China.

Michael Nussbaum, a spokesman for Thompson, said he was not aware of Drezner’s proposal. Thomspon has received offers to work with other firms and groups, he said, but the developer will not make any decisions until the project receives final approval from Borough President Helen Marshall and the city Board of Standards & Appeals.

Nussbaum said he expects Marshall to approve the project “shortly” and that the BSA should rule on it sometime in April. Dan Andrews, a spokesman for Marshall, said last week she “is looking favorably” on Thompson’s proposal for the theater at 137-25 Northern Blvd.

“Patrick has been approached by a number of people over these last few months and until we go through the process we’ll go to the next step after that, but we’re happy to speak with him,” Drezner said, referring to Thompson. “We’ve been in discussions with numerous people who would like to help, but until the process is completed we would be foolish to have selected somebody.”

Drezner said the Chinese company has no interest in changing the plans for the project, which include spending $8 million to renovate the theater’s badly damaged, landmarked lobby and building a two-story, green undulating glass curtain to display the renovated interior to people as they pass by the site at 137-25 Northern Blvd. The lobby would become the public gateway to a new 17-story tower with 357 market-rate apartments, a senior center, 385 parking spaces and more than 12,000 square feet of retail.

Drezner, who said he has worked in real estate since the 1960s, also said the company would likely use union and local labor, though he said it would want to employ its own engineers.

“I’m pretty sure they would go with union labor. That’s what the $160 million figure is based on. If they could do it for peanuts, they would, but it doesn’t work that way in New York,” Drezner said. “I would guess they would be using local labor.”

Nussbaum said Thompson also hopes to use local labor and they have met with labor leaders, but decisions about hiring for construction have yet to be made.

“There is a commitment when possible, where possible to use local firms to do certain things within the development,” he said.

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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