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Owner of Old Childs Building Will Try to Preserve Its Facade, He Says

 Some of the details of the facade at 36-01 Broadway, which is mostly covered with construction scaffolding.
Some of the details of the facade at 36-01 Broadway, which is mostly covered with construction scaffolding.
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DNAinfo/Jeanmarie Evelly

ASTORIA — The owner of a building on Broadway believed to have once housed a Childs restaurant is revisiting his plans to renovate the site, saying he'll try to preserve the property's ornamental facade following calls from preservationists who want it saved.

Morris Dweck, one of the owners of the DII variety store chain, said they'd originally planned to cover up the facade of the building at 36-01 Broadway — known for its colorful terra cotta figures — to combine it with the DII shop next door and make it look like one large storefront.

But they're now seeing if they can revise the plans after outcry last week from the Greater Astoria Historical Society and others at the prospect of losing the unique architecture, thought to be remnants of when the building was a Childs restaurant, an early American dining chain.

"I'm trying to do the right thing and revisit the design and come up with a solution," said Dweck, adding that he's spoken with his architect "at length" about the plans and hopes to find a way to keep the top of the building, which sports the ornate nautical-themed facade, intact.

"We are going to try and result with a win-win for both ourselves and those community residents," he said, but warned that he won't know for sure until he gets the final word from his architect in the next week or so.

"We might be able to come up with a solution," he said. "We might not. I don’t know, it's too early to tell."

The complaints have thrown a last-minute wrench into his plans, which the company has been working on for months and gotten approved by the Department of Buildings.

"We spent the last seven months designing and doing our preparation and getting our proper permits," Dweck said.

They've even had a banner posted on the outside of the building that told passersby about the renovations on the way, but said he heard no public concerns about it until the construction sheds went up last week.

36-01 Broadway

"We're not against anybody. We're here to cooperate and work with them," he said.

The building, which was most recently a Rite Aid, was built in the late 1920s and sports detailed terra-cotta figures of fish, shells, seahorses and King Neptune.

It's thought to have been a former Childs restaurant because of its resemblance to other buildings from the restaurant chain, including a landmarked building in Coney Island.

"It's just a beautiful gem of a building," Bob Singleton of the Greater Astoria Historical Society told DNAinfo last week. "When people walk up and down that street they look at that, they instinctively look at that building."

Singleton submitted a request Monday with the Landmarks Preservation Commission to evaluate the site as a potential landmark.

His efforts spurred another campaign to landmark a similar building on Queens Boulevard and 60th Street in Woodside, which is also believed to be a former Childs.

The LPC is reviewing the requests, a spokeswoman said.