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Expansion takes a giant step forward at the Riviera Theatre

NORTH TONAWANDA – The historic Riviera Theatre and Performing Arts Center is ready to “Set the Stage” and design it too, with the hiring of architectural firm Foit Albert and Associates, which will begin the design process to make a $6.1 million expansion plan a reality.

But changes have already started.

The theater on Webster Street has been drawing big crowds as it has begun other updates in advance of the expansion – becoming more than just the home of the Mighty Wurlitzer.

Management already restored the marquee and made other improvements that make it possible to bring in bigger acts.

Gary J. Rouleau, co-director of the Riviera, said the theater also has been attracting a lot more people.

He said attendance has hit 100,000 annually – which is a $3 million impact on the surrounding community. The expansion is expected to increase the impact on the community to $4 million.

“You see the whole transformation of the area,” Rouleau said of the increasing popularity of the Webster Street business district. He said the entire area is impacted as people are coming from farther away to attend shows and staying the entire day to visit Niagara Falls, have dinner and then a nightcap after the show.

The Riveria’s “Set the Stage” Capital Campaign to fund the expansion has raised $1.35 million, strengthened by a $1.2 million Western New York Regional Economic Development Council award, which has allowed the theater to move to the design phase – expected to be completed at the end of the summer.

Rouleau called the design phase a big step, adding, “We will finally know what the building is going to look like.”

The 23,00-square-foot expansion in the rear of the theater is being built on a remediated brownfield site. A transmission shop was demolished and more than $400,000 in cleanup work was done.

The expansion will include:

• A black box theater for diverse shows and educational events.

• Corporate/private events space.

• Concession space for both the new and existing theater.

• A new dressing room with showers and wash facilities.

• A new ground-level box office.

• Critically needed storage space .

A target date has been set for fall 2017.

email: nfischer@buffnews.com