ASTORIA — A shop owner taking over the old Rite Aid space believed to have once housed a Childs restaurant says he's reworked renovation plans in order to preserve its ornate facade following outcry from locals.
Morris Dweck had originally planned to cover up the decorative exterior of the building at 36-01 Broadway, notable for its terra-cotta carvings of shells, sea horses and King Neptune, as he worked to combine it with his DII variety store next door.
But the construction sparked a preservation effort on the part of locals, including the Greater Astoria Historical Society which said the 1920s-era building is one of the few intact Childs restaurant locations, an early American dining chain that once had more than 100 sites nationwide.
While Dweck says he wasn't originally aware of the the building's origins, he had his architect change renovation plans in response to concerns from the community in order to save the building's decorative details.
"All the architectural detail is being preserved," Dweck said in an email update about the project Friday, including renderings of what the building will look like.
Instead of covering up the nautical-themed facade, Dweck will leave it as is, adding red brick to the bottom half of the building below it and installing the same limestone exterior to the top of the DII store so that the two separate storefronts look like one.
"It would have been cheaper if we just removed it completely," Dweck told DNAinfo Monday, but said that the company "is committed to the local community and residents of Astoria and aspires to meet their wishes to preserve its history and culture."
He said he expects the exterior work to wrap up in October and hopes to have a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate it.
Bob Singleton of the Greater Astoria Historical Society, who led the charge to see the building preserved, said they are glad to hear the news.
"We're very grateful," he said. "He listened to the community."
But Singleton says he's still hoping to see the building landmarked permanently by the city. He submitted an application to Landmarks Preservation Commission in June asking them to evaluate the site, and says he was told the agency is reviewing the application.
"If this building ever gets sold, the new owner might not be as community minded," he said.
The Broadway location is one of two Childs sites in Queens that preservationists are eyeing — a filmmaker has also asked the LPC to evaluate a building on Queens Boulevard in Woodside that's thought to have been part of the dining chain.
The Commission did not immediately return an email about the status of those applications.