Bushburg Properties LLC, which bought the near century-old landmarked building earlier this year, has applied to the Department of Buildings to convert the upper floors of the existing structure to 40 units for residential use and the first floor for retail space.
The filing came to the dismay of many residents, including members of Community Board 5 (CB5), which recently met with Bushburg to express that the neighborhood wanted to see the building used for entertainment again.
“We want some kind of commercial use and preferably some kind of entertainment venue, because that’s what brings other people,” said Ted Renz, executive director of the Myrtle Avenue Business Improvement District and a member of CB5.
The Ridgewood Theatre has served generations of moviegoers in the community since it opened in 1916. The theatre closed in 2008 after ticket sales went south. The building’s exterior was landmarked in 2010, meaning that the owners are limited to modifying the interior.
A Bushburg official estimated that after the application process the construction to convert the building will take from 18 to 30 months. The structure will not be expanded and the owners have not decided if the apartments will serve low-income residents.
In the application to the city’s buildings department, Bushburg left the first floor open for retail use. The group has met with some potential businesses, but has not finalized anything and is open to feedback from the community.
“We’re open for suggestions. We are trying to accommodate the community with the first floor,” said Israel Hirsch, a Bushburg partner. “We’re not looking to maximize the dollar value we do want to give something back to the community.”
A burgeoning Ridgewood music scene may soon have a new outlet in a historic locale.
CPEX Real Estate Managing Director Ryan Condren said the firm is aggressively marketing the Ridgewood Theatre — which closed in 2008 — and is trying to determine an ideal user for the space, though there is no timetable for the sale.
“Obviously [a concert venue] is one of the candidates that we think would be suitable tenants for the space,” Condren said.
Ted Renz, executive director of the Ridgewood Local Development Corporation, said the exorbitant price to renovate the theater may deter potential tenants. An architect for the previous owners pegged the renovation at $25 million, Renz said.
If economically feasible, he believes a music venue would be a boon for the influx of artists into the community in recent years.
Friends of The Ridgewood Theatre founder Michael Perlman said he would welcome concerts in the 17,000 square-foot space as long as the tenant recognizes the theater’s history and is committed to restoring “the site’s historic interior.”
Opened in 1916, for nearly a century the theater stood as an entertainment beacon in Ridgewood. It was the longest continually operated first-run cinema in New York, bridging the silent film era to Hollywood blockbusters.
Now an anachronism among awninged retail stores along Myrtle Avenue, the theater’s façade and marquee are protected as a city landmark, something potential tenants would have to work around.
Many parties have expressed interest, Condren said, with a multitude of visions for the site, not only as a concert venue.
“We’re not ruling anything out right now,” he said.
Empty for more than four years, Renz said he just wants an occupant in the space that would benefit the area.
“It’s an eyesore, it’s a vacant property,” he said. “The BID is committed to working with anyone who could do something there. As long as it’s something that the community wants, and is compatible to complement the district.”