Starting in 2012, a group of Ridgewood locals, duly entranced by the theater’s distinctive façade, have been learning about the Ridgewood Theater’s illustrious history, and working on its reestablishment as a cultural beacon for Ridgewood and beyond. Particularly, they envision its transformation into a successful local institution and performing arts venue that will create and provide vital economic and social benefits for their community—including mixed-use proposals that incorporate arts, retail, restaurant, and residential uses.
Bridgette Vidunas and Mercy Wong have coordinated with various civic and political leaders, including Ridgewood business improvement district president Theodore Renz, New York City Councilwoman Diana Reyna, and members of the Community Board to engage entities that could potentially be persuaded to shower some TLC on the shuttered (and yet still striking) property.
Wong, an architect and design professional, provided pro-bono design services and reached out to other individuals in the industry for help. She envisioned a historically accurate restoration of the front façade after researching and examining historic images and original construction drawings of the theater, archived at the Drawings and Archives Department of Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library at Columbia University. Additionally she presented possibilities that in mixed-use scenarios, the theater’s interior spatial characteristics can still be retained and therefore warrant an interior restoration. A walkthrough of the space was held with community groups and civic leaders in attendance in October of 2012, few weeks before Hurricane Sandy. There was an outpouring of support on all fronts for the theater’s revitalization, proving that the time is ripe for the Ridgewood Theater to get a second life.
Additionally, a group of neighbors were able to examine and photograph the building’s interior with the Guzman’s representative in more detail in December of 2012. It was evident that in the wake of benign neglect—not to mention cataclysmic events like Hurricane Sandy—a lot of work is in order before the space would even be safe for the public again. The interior of the building is deteriorating rapidly due to broken windows and other openings that allow the elements to get inside. However, despite an interior in desperate need of restoration, the original flair and brilliance of the space is evident all over. Even more remarkably, some of its original architectural details, concealed in subsequent remodeling through the decades, are still there, waiting to be rediscovered.