The Lincoln Cinema property on Kearny Avenue, stuck in a time warp for nearly the last eight years, has finally been sold — to an Essex County tradesman looking to redevelop the site primarily for residential use.
But parking issues — or, more to the point, the lack of parking — could pose problems for the projected development, town officials say.
George’s Theater, LLC, of Newark, purchased the old movie theater and attached retail space off Elizabeth Avenue in mid-September 2022 for $975,000, according to the deed recording the transaction.
The property’s market value was listed at $1,106,684.
Shallan Haddad, listed as the LLC’s registered agent, is president of Haddad Plumbing & Heating Inc., 1223 Broad St., Newark, and he told The Observer he’s consulting with an attorney experienced in real-estate matters what options may be open to him in pitching a new use for the property.
Haddad, who has had exploratory talks about the property’s future use with town administrator Stephen Marks and town attorney James Bruno, said his intent is to convert the theater to apartments with an outdoor patio and some type of rooftop amenity.
At this point, he said he’s projecting “20 to 24” residential units.
He said he’d also look to fill the currently empty ground-floor spaces with retail tenants, possibly an eatery in one section.
“With all the redevelopment that’s been going on along that main street (Ridge Road in neighboring North Arlington), it’s going to overflow into Kearny,” Haddad predicted. “People are going to need a place to live.”
Because he wants to keep his project within the existing footprint of the theater property — which, according to town records, sits on a lot of 13,248 square feet — Haddad acknowledged, “the only possible drawback would be parking.”
With the theater property bordering several single-family homes, Haddad said it would be tough to create on-site surface parking to accommodate new residents and retail customers. Whether any below-ground parking space could be carved out also seems doubtful, he said.
If and when Haddad is ready to present a set of blueprints for review by the town — either the Planning Board for site plan review or the Zoning Board of Adjustment for possible variances — that is when the parking dilemma would likely be considered.
How the former theater, built in 1935, was permitted to operate without parking, one may well wonder. It closed in fall 2015. Currently, the town pockets $26,355 a year in annual tax revenues from the property based on an assessment of $250,000, according to municipal tax records.
Asked if he’d contemplated restoration of the cinema, Haddad said he gave the idea some thought, “but I’m a plumber,” with no prior experience in running a movie theater. “I’m definitely not going to leave (the building) empty,” he said.
Haddad said he plans to continue to maintain his Newark plumbing business and participate in the city’s redevelopment of the Broad Street business district.
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Ron Leir | For The Observer
Ron Leir has been a newspaperman since the late ’60s, starting his career with The Jersey Journal, having served as a summer reporter during college. He became a full-time scribe in February 1972, working mostly as a general assignment reporter in all areas except sports, including a 3-year stint as an assistant editor for entertainment, features, religion, etc.
He retired from the JJ in May 2009 and came to The Observer shortly thereafter.
He is also a part-time actor, mostly on stage, having worked most recently with the Kearny-based WHATCo. and plays Sunday softball in Central Park, New York