Earlier this year, the Ridgewood Theater attracted the attention of Architecture for Humanity NY (AfHny), a non-profit organization that provides free design services for underserved communities; additionally, they support design that enriches community spaces, making them natural allies for the Ridgewood residents attempting to revitalize their shuttered theater. Wong presented the results of her historic research and design work in March 2013 at the New York AIA Center for Architecture. After a review process on the part of their board of directors, AfHny decided to support efforts at revitalizing the Ridgewood Theater. Future assistance from AfHny will come in the form of workshops to identify needs of the community, interviews with stakeholders, design charettes and proposal. Currently AfHny is coordinating with consultants of the Myrtle Avenue business improvement district; the latter commissioned a market analysis of the Ridgewood Myrtle Avenue area. The revitalization of Ridgewood Theater will a be major game changer for the growth and future of Ridgewood and an anchor for Myrtle Avenue.
In April of this year, Wong & Vidunas launched the ‘We Love Ridgewood Theater’ campaign to raise awareness and garner support for the revitalization of the theater. They saw news of an offer on the theater as an opportunity to engage new ownership in dialogue. Their campaign emphasizes the importance of establishing open lines of communication with future ownership. What they have learned to date is that without ownership participation, even with overwhelming support in the public sector, the road to revitalizing the theater is fraught with difficulties. Therefore they make it their mission statement to hear all stakeholders with AfHny’s help, and that includes the owners as well. ‘We Love Ridgewood Theater’ wants to understand what the future owner’s vision is for the theater and advise them on their plans. ‘We Love Ridgewood Theater’ is open-minded to development, while keeping the community’s wants and needs in mind. It strongly advocates for arts, performance arts and community-focused programming and the restoration of its landmarked facade.
The revitalization of Ridgewood theater will be pivotal to the health and vitality of Myrtle Avenue, enhancing the pedestrian experience and a create a more vibrant streetscape. With convenient public transit access, it is not hard to imagine its success as a performing arts venue, given the lively arts scene in the area. Perhaps a public-private partnership will be the key to ensure the community will always have a stake in the theater, as custodians of this neighborhood jewel for many years to come.
There is much ground to be covered before the interests of community activists seeking to preserve a distinguished link to the past and property developers looking to make future profits can be said to neatly converge. However, one thing is for certain: the building in everyone’s sights is unique and full of remarkable potential, and a space whose final chapter has not yet been written.