A new gym is to open a block away from our apartment.

It’s a source of great excitement in our household, a state-of-the-art gym just a few hundred yards from our front door. Because what keeps us from going to the gym regularly is definitely proximity.  

Said new gym is going to take up the entire ground floor of a brand new apartment building, the product of a year’s construction. We’ve lived in the neighborhood long enough now to have known the building that stood there before. It was four stories high and windowless, with a rickety old fire escape snaking around the outside. The entire ground floor then was taken up by a grocery store.

It was an odd grocery store on the inside, with a temporary ceiling and refrigerators for walls. If you were curious, you could tell there was something lurking back there, behind the flavored yogurt and the luncheon meat. But it was hard to tell what.

Once, after they had sold it to a developer, the owners let us venture back beyond the cold storage to see for ourselves.

It was breathtaking. Inside the dark, cavernous space were the remains of a beautiful old movie theatre, one that shuttered in the 1950s: ornate stone cornices framed a large rectangular backdrop where the screen had been, the tall ceiling dappled with a peeling gilt mosaic, graded rows that had once held seats. As if the store was a cheap shoebox kept in a grand, antique closet. We stood there a long time, breathing it in.

My husband and I walked past one afternoon last summer, not long after the demolition began. The remains of the theatre were open to the elements; the wrecking ball clattering it to rubble. We were angry, rueful. We cursed the contractors and their profit margins, the homogeny of luxury condos, the erosion of neighborhood gems, the dearth of secret movie theatres lying dormant behind halogen bodegas.

Now, it’s September and we’ve moved on. A new gym is coming.