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Queens Chronicle

Historic landmark may be sold soon

Residents and community leaders hope to see the Ridgewood Theatre revitalized

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Posted: Thursday, May 9, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 10:42 am, Thu May 16, 2013.

The Ridgewood Theatre at 55-27 Myrtle Ave., one of the longest-lasting first-run movie theaters in the country, may soon be under new ownership.

According to Mercy Wong of Community Board 5 and Ted Renz of the Myrtle Avenue Business Improvement District, an offer on the 97-year-old building has been made.

As the deal is not official yet, the prospective buyer has not been named, but members of the community are hoping he or she will partner up with residents and be open to their suggestions on what to do with the historic building.

“There is still a lot that needs to be done,” Renz said. “We are hoping that whoever the new owners are, that they will engage the community and work with us to make a do-able and practical plan.”

The theater, opened in 1916, last operated as a five-screen multiplex but closed in March 2008 and has remained vacant ever since. The building’s facade became an official city landmark in 2010, preventing any future buyers from altering the front of it.

In previous years, there had been rumors of plans to turn the inside of the theater into a supermarket but those never came to fruition. Another previous owner attempted to make the space into an entertainment venue but did not garner enough financial support to do so.

The owner, listed on the Department of Buildings website as Teofilo Guzman, could not be reached for comment.

According to zoning laws, the 20,500-square-foot theater can be used as a residential, commercial or community facility, so long as the facade of the building is preserved.

A few members of the community, including Wong and Renz, have been working on a proposal to turn the theater into a live entertainment or mixed-use venue.

“I have since started the We Love Ridgewood Theater campaign, to make visible all the supporters that have rallied around the Ridgewood Theater,” Wong said in an email. “We want to engage the new ownership (if the sale is finalized) and start a dialogue with them to ensure that the community’s interest is considered and represented in the building’s new future programming.”

Wong and Renz, along with resident and We Love Ridgewood Theater campaign publicist Bridgette Vidunas, CB 5 Chairman Vincent Arcuri, Councilwoman Diana Reyna (D-Brooklyn, Queens) and others involved in the campaign, have met with Architecture for Humanity, a nonprofit that brings professional services to communities in need, to help the group develop a more comprehensive vision.

The campaign is planning to host community outreach workshops and design meetings, called charettes, with all stakeholders.

In the end, the decision of what to use the building for will be up to the buyer but We Love Ridgewood Theater hopes the owner will take their vision into consideration.

“The neighborhood is seeing an influx of artists, musicians and young families,” a statement sent by Vidunas read. “There’s a palpable enthusiasm for a renaissance of Myrtle Avenue to provide services to an up-and-coming neighborhood.”

Those interested in the We Love Ridgewood Theater campaign can visit the group’s Facebook page.

Welcome to the discussion.