After a decade and a half, the Riviera Theatre is up for grabs

After 15 years of vacancy, the Center Street building once home to the Riviera Theatre is now up for sale.

"It is available and it is for sale," said Mike Smith, associate broker and assistant manager of the Nothnagle Realty's Geneseo office. Smith said that he cannot yet disclose any offers on the table, but said that there has been "quite a bit of interest" in the space.

Smith, who said that he remembers the Riviera from his time as a student at Geneseo, said he is "hopeful" that the property will be soon be sold. He said he expects the building to sell within the next 60 days.

Smith said that the Riviera last showed a movie in 1995. During the early 1990s, the Riviera had faced increasing competition from the growing popularity of movie rental stores. The Riviera, according to Smith, was "falling into disrepair" and finally could not compete against the "newer, brighter and shinier" cineplex theater that opened on Route 20A at about the same time that the Riviera closed.

The Riviera has been held by an estate since 2003 when the former owner passed away and left the property to four children, Smith said. The property remained off the market and vacant for seven years as "the executors of the estate did not always agree as to how the property should be disposed of," Smith said. The four executors have since come to an agreement to sell the building.

"Sometimes estates are hard to sell," said Smith. "In this case, it's been difficult."

The Student Association had at one point expressed interest in purchasing the Riviera, but senior Doug Sinski, president of SA, has since said that SA is no longer pursuing the option.

Sinski floated a proposal at the Sept. 15 SA business meeting to purchase the Riviera and convert the space into a "Student Association performing arts center" that would be used to host events of SA-funded organizations.

Because of the significant interest in the space from private buyers, Sinski said that the SA executive board would likely have had to vote on the issue within the next two weeks in order to be competitive in bidding for the property. Ultimately, he said in an e-mail, "[SA] decided that it couldn't happen in the time frame that it would have required."

Sinski said that an SA performing arts center would have given SA the ability to schedule regular events; he noted that the School of the Arts currently has precedence over SA when booking venues on campus. For example, KINO could have theoretically booked the center every Tuesday and offered a weekly movie night.

According to Sinski, it would have cost roughly $200,000 to purchase the Riviera and an additional $1 million to renovate the space.

Sinski said that SA currently has enough funds to purchase but not renovate the building. SA, he said, was considering different funding options to complete the renovation process; one option was to finance a loan by raising student activity fees by approximately $15 each semester.

"There are obviously multiple perspectives on the issue," said Sinski. Indeed, the SA executive board did not unanimously support the proposal to buy the Riviera when it was introduced.

"I don't feel the need to spend 1.2 million on a theater," said senior Will Labate, SA director of student affairs, adding that he didn't consider the proposal "a wise use of student money, as we have all these [performing arts] venues here and there are other things" that the money could go toward.