Tonawanda News — After more than five years of work, Riviera Theatre directors and politicians celebrated the upcoming demolition of a polluted eyesore behind North Tonawanda’s preforming arts venue.
The project originated in 2007, when the theater purchased the structure, a former transmission shop located on Main Street. Although Riviera directors were originally hoping to incorporate the building into the existing theater, subsequent tests revealed environmental contamination that would have made the project cost prohibitive.
Instead, the building will be demolished and environmental cleanup will be completed with the assistance of $350,000 in funds from a Niagara County Brownfield Revolving Loan Fund grant. The “Riv” will then complete construction of new, 23,000-square-foot facility that will attach to the existing structure.
“This new addition will help us obtain revenue to sustain our future,” Executive Director of the Riviera Theatre Frank Cannata said. “This will add jobs and increase economic growth in the area.”
The new structure will include an additional entrance, another box office, enhanced concessions, an elevator to the theater’s balcony, a black box theater for rehearsal space, room for corporate meetings and bathrooms.
“Those of you have come to a show here before know the beauty of a historic theater. Historic plumbing — not so much,” Cannata joked.
Peter Murad, of Architectural Resources, has planned the new structure, and said the added space is necessary for the continued success for the Riv, which relies solely on ticket sales and donations.
“The theater can’t do a lot of shows with just its current space, because of the lack of rehearsal space and dressing rooms,” Murad said. “This is really necessary for transitioning the theater into the next era.”
In turn, the additional shows will create more revenue — which will make the continued preservation of the theater, which was built in 1926, possible.
The construction will cost $5.9 million, the theater’s Director of Development Gary Rouleau said, and the Riv is in the midst of a capital campaign to fund the project.
In the meantime, demolition and remediation of the existing building will begin July 22 and will be complete by November, Cannata said.
Local politicians who attended Thursday’s celebratory event praised the Riv’s work.
“The demolition will take this building from something that is in our past to something that is in our future,” North Tonawanda Mayor Robert Ortt said.
State Assemblyman Robin Schimminger and state Sen. George Maziarz, who were also in attendance Thursday, echoed Ortt’s comments.
“I know that the people on the south side of the canal are envious of the people on the north side of the canal because the Riv has been preserved, preserved, and preserved ... and now it is going to be enhanced.
Maziarz also pointed to the recent improvement of North Tonawanda’s downtown corridor.
“North Tonawanda is a model for all of Western New York,” Maziarz said. “I wish the development taking place in NT would happen in other places around the region.”Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000 ext. 4150, or follow her on Twitter at @JessicaLBagley