July 7, 2016 By Jackie Strawbridge
The owner of the DII Broadway discount store, who is currently renovating a former Child’s Restaurant next door, said Wednesday that he has drawn up plans with his architect to keep the 90-year-old building’s colorful exterior detailing and even extend it further down the block.
And for now, according to the City Landmarks Preservation Commission, the fate of the building is in his hands.
DII, located at 36-11 Broadway, moved into the adjacent property at 36-01 Broadway last year after Rite Aid left. Retail owner Morris Dweck said they are now renovating to create one expanded store.
He said his aim is to have a uniform brick exterior across all of the new space. However when scaffolding went up around the building recently, many Astorians became concerned that the unique sea-themed décor would be removed.
“We’ve tried to satisfy the requests of the community,” Dweck said Wednesday. “I like to make everybody happy, bottom line.”
He said he plans to keep the decorative urns, sea-themed designs, and large crests intact. He also said he wants to use stucco or limestone to recreate the colorful features along the existing DII location. He is not sure whether he will keep the arches running along the building underneath these designs.
“Nothing is a promise until the final rendering is approved,” Dweck acknowledged. “But that is the direction.”
“We’ve had some good conversations about the preservation and there are still a lot of conversations to have,” Councilman Costa Constantinides said. “I’m doing my best to make sure that the historic nature of this building is preserved.”
The lingering uncertainty is in part what has led some local advocates, including the Greater Astoria Historical Society, to push for the building to be landmarked.
The Landmarks Preservation Commission has received a landmark request for this property.
However, according to the LPC, because work permits had already been issued for this property, alterations under those permits are immune to the landmarking process.
“I think we’re a little late in the game here,” Central Astoria LDC executive director Marie Torniali said. She added that she is “all for landmarking” but would want to hear from the property owner of 36-01 Broadway before taking a position.
The property owner lives in Greece, according to Department of Finance records, and could not be reached for comment as of this writing. Dweck said that DII is working in cooperation with the owner.
Bob Singleton of the Greater Astoria Historical Society said he believes DII should consider benefits of landmarking the building from a business standpoint, such as LPC grants.
“Without designation, no matter what he does, the building’s in danger,” Singleton added. “It could be sold next week and we’re back where we we’re at.”