Construction to expand building begins at the vacant Oasis Theater in Ridgewood

Max Parrott/QNS

The former Oasis Theatre, the hulking building at 63-57 Fresh Pond Rd., which was remodeled into a CVS pharmacy in the early 2010s, went under construction at the beginning of last week to expand it into a large new commercial building.

Seve Sasson, president of ABC Super Stores, filed plans with the Department of Buildings that propose lowering the height of the building and expanding its horizontal dimensions to fill most of the lot. They also involve enlarging the cellar and plumbing work.

In spite of Sasson’s direct association with a chain of discount stores, he said that he has not announced that’s what’s in the cards for the building. He raised the possibility to QNS that there could be more than one store in the building, insisting he’s not ready to disclose his plans for the building yet.

“Everything is on the table,” said Sasson.

The construction will reduce the height of the building and expand its floor plan. 

“Demolition, in all likelihood, means not the entire building but the upper area of the building which would include any heating and ventilation and certainly might include demolition of the mezzanine area of movie theater seats if they were still there,” said District Manager Gary Giordano told QNS in July around when Sasson first filed for the permits.

The mezzanine refers to two-tiered seating that was a feature of the Oasis Theater’s palatial design. Opened in 1927, the Oasis was designed by Thomas W. Lamb, an architect famous for creating a number of ornately decorated theaters in the 1920s, including Madison Square Garden. 

While the legend has it that “Rocky” was the theater’s last run as a movie theater in 1976, other Ridgewood residents recall seeing films like “Kentucky Fried Movie” into 1977-78. 

After its movie theater period, the space began hosting concerts for a brief stint. Several commenters on the Cinema Treasures forums recall the shows leading to complaints in the neighborhood, particularly a concert by Richard Hell and the Voidoids and the Ramones, the Forest Hills natives who popularized punk rock. It was canceled after neighbors called the police.

The venue reportedly became a roller rink in 1979, which stayed open for a number of years. The building was converted to a CVS in 2012, according to state filings, and its front facade demolished to make room for a parking lot. But the pharmacy moved out by 2014, and it became a second-hand store for a few years before closing down again – this time without a replacement.

The design appears to restore the expanse of the property that was cleared out for parking lot. The new 20,000-square-foot store will take up the entire block.

Sasson said that construction would last for around a year. 

Editor’s note: an earlier version of this article stated that the CVS was opened in 2013. The year has been changed to reflect state filings.