The curtain might be closed for good at the Ridgewood Theater.
The 1915 building has been vacant since March 2008, said Theodore Renz, executive director of the Myrtle Avenue Business Improvement District (BID). In 2010, the Guzman brothers took over ownership and intended to put a supermarket in the building, but the plan was never implemented. The brothers are now selling, with the new owners expected to come in at the end of May, according to George Danut of the CPEX brokerage firm.
“Whatever the new owners have in mind, it will be good if they engage the community going forward,” said Mercy Wong, co-founder of the We Love Ridgewood Theater group and member of Community Board 5.
Danut said the new owners, whose names could not be disclosed due to terms of the sale, shelled out $7 million for the property. With the facade registered as a landmark, the new owners plan to renovate the building shortly after the deal is closed. They plan to put in a retail space on the bottom floor and convert the top into a residential spot, Danut said.
But not so fast, said Ridgewood residents.
Wong has worked since 2010 to revitalize the vacant theater with hopes of making it an entertainment venue. She and the group have reached out to community leaders and politicians to see what can be done, and said the Guzmans’ sale “threw them for a loop.”
“Generations of Ridgewood residents have gone to the theater,” Wong said. “They’ve gone on their first dates there, gone to prom [and] graduated high school. It has a really deep history in the neighborhood.”
Danut said the new owners have retail and residential properties in Brooklyn that have done well, so “they know what they’re doing.” Community members still want to sit down and discuss options for the space.
“Whether the new owners will be receptive to what the community wants, that I can’t tell you,” Renz said.
Wong said she has spoken with people that live in the area or have been to the theater, and many want the site restored as something entertainment-related or even as a theater.
“This is a cause worth saving,” Wong said. “The owners could be risking the identity of the building.”
Renz said BID is open to discussions with the owners and simply wants to restore the site to viable use.
Once the new owners have officially moved in, Renz was told they would meet with him and other community representatives.
“We’re open to any kind of adaptive use,” Renz said. “If they decide to do housing on the upper [level], maybe they’ll allow the bottom to go to entertainment use. We can help each other.”
“At least listen to us,” he added. “That’s all we’re asking at this point.”
The Guzman brothers could not be reached for comment as of press time.