Curtain Rises on Schimenti-Built Target in Historic Brooklyn Theater

Ridgefield, Connecticut—The ornate Walker Theater building in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn begins a new act as a Target store when it opens on October 18. The renovation of the ninety-year-old structure retains and restores many of the theater’s original details, such as the balcony, chandeliers, pilasters, columns and other decorative features. The one-of-a-kind store will play a starring role in Target’s upcoming annual fall meeting.

The one-floor sales space of the flexible format store, which is sized and tailored to the local community’s needs, occupies 22,000 SF at 6401 Eighteenth Avenue. The Walker Theater, named for New York City mayor James J. Walker, opened in 1927. Through six decades, the theater hosted live performances, films and even high-profile boxing matches before being converted to a four-screen movie theater in the 1980s. More recently, the building housed discount retail clothing shops.

Starting in February 2017, the Target project required two months of pre-construction and prep work, followed by five months of design and build for a September completion. The conversion included replacing steel and concrete in the building entrance and vestibule; installing all new mechanicals and water service; creating a new steel ceiling support system to expose the front edge of the old balcony; adding a new fire pump and electrical switchgear; and performing extensive asbestos abatement.

Keeping the spirit of the Walker Theater alive, many of the original plaster design elements and theater seats have been restored and are viewable throughout the store. Among the rejuvenated historical elements are chandeliers moved from the old mezzanine to a prominent spot in the front rotunda, which also features a newly-restored plaster ceiling and decorative medallions. The balcony and rotunda plaster required three months of restoration and ornamentation work to bring them back to their former glory. Although the theater’s original Wurlitzer pipe organ was removed in recent decades, the pipes are preserved, protected and displayed in the mezzanine.

Retrofitting a Target store into this richly-featured structure presented numerous challenges, but the Schimenti team and its partners worked diligently throughout the planning, design and construction phases to devise creative solutions that honored the theater’s history. Many site-related challenges stemmed from the difficult logistics of receiving deliveries and organizing materials on-site, and from poor access to the mezzanine and basement, which house the HVAC and electrical equipment. Additionally, changes to lighting, millwork, refrigeration cases and the ten-ton air conditioning unit necessitated late-in-schedule adjustments to avoid cost overruns and delays.

The Target Bensonhurst team—led by senior superintendent Mike Watson, onsite logistics manager Patrick Fletcher, project manager Mike Bittner and project coordinator Adam Franco—worked under the guidance of project executive Charles Esteves. Watson and Bittner expertly managed subcontractors on a tight schedule during the busy season, while Franco oversaw deliveries to the offsite warehouse and multiple project sites. Watson and Fletcher kept workers from all trades tightly focused on a dedication to safety; Fletcher also oversaw the critical mezzanine and basement work.

“The successful completion of this complicated project required a tireless effort,” said Esteves, “and we are pleased to have accomplished a seamless turnover to Target. Our longstanding partnership with Target continues to be strong, and throughout this project, we worked to build a relationship with the Bensonhurst community to promote Target’s brand and image. At the end of this unique job, the entire Schimenti team can be proud to have ushered in the revival of this amazing building.”


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