Tonawanda News

December 28, 2013

No. 2: Riv makes way for expansion

By Michael Regan
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — As a building formerly housing an auto shop came down in July in North Tonawanda, the vision of organizers at the Riviera Theatre and Performing Arts Center rose up. 

A plan to build an addition of the back of the theater dates back to 2007 and by 2010, the building at 68 Main St. was purchased for $300,000. 

In July of this year, the structure was demolished and quickly followed by remediation work on the brownfield site, for what will become a 23,000 square-foot black box theater, events’ space, expanded concession area, additional dressing rooms and a rooftop terrace with views of the Erie Canal. 

The theater, built in 1926, has increased its budget from $180,000 in 2006 to $1.6 million in 2013. There’s been tens of thousands of dollars in work on structural issues in its interior and an updated marquee is expected to be put in place early next year. 

And while it will likely be several more years before $6 million in funding can be obtained for the ambitious project, Director Frank Cannata has it will have a far-reaching effect on the theater itself and the community at large. 

“I never thought I would spend the whole day being excited watching a building come down,” Cannata said in July, the day of the demolition. “And dreaming about what’s going to become a reality.” 

With new life flowing through the theater over the last decade, it has also been credited in part for the resurgence along Webster Street, with restaurants, shops and a niche boutique feel taking shape after years of work. 

Leaders say the new structure will further add to its appeal and allow multiple performances to take place as well as larger and more varied shows, due to the additional dressing rooms, with a mix of modern and historically significant details. 

A major funding campaign is expected to kick off in 2014. 

THE LIST SO FAR • No. 10: Niawanda Park pavilion opens • No. 9: Kiddieland opens at carrousel museum • No. 8: NT marina gets a boost • No. 7: Joe Hollywood perishes in blaze • No. 6: Malone's bar owner slain • No. 5: Bills, Sabres seek new directions • No. 4: Budwey to sell stores after decades in town • No. 3: Tonawanda elects Rick Davis as new mayor