Riviere Hotel, Swanton, 10-1-2020

The former Riviere Hotel sits near River Street’s intersection with Route 78. The village purchased the property back in 2020, and it's set for demolition in April.

SWANTON — The demolition of Swanton’s Riviere Hotel is scheduled for this April.

Initially purchased in the fall of 2020 by the Village of Swanton to push forward redevelopment, the building functioned as a hotel in the first half of 20th century before being abandoned.

The village is now ready to take it down.

“It’s a very old building. It’s not going to need too much encouragement,” Village Manager Bill Sheets said.

The official date of the demolition, however, has yet to be determined. Sheets said the demolition company – Complete Demolition Services LLC – still needs to finalize its schedule for April, but once the date is nailed down, the village administration will be reaching out to neighbors and adjacent property owners to answer any questions and explain the details of the demo.

Sheets said the village will also be taking precautions on the day of the demolition – such as watering down dust – to mitigate any potential impacts to the neighborhood. Two police officers will also be on scene during the demo, and fencing around the property will be adjusted as the demolition progresses.

The building itself should be down relatively quickly, Sheets said, and the remaining materials will be removed from the site afterward.

The total cost of the demolition and removal is $129,633.

Redevelopment phases

Swanton Village first purchased the 3,000 square foot building for $30,000 as part of its redevelopment goals for the area, but the structure ended up being in worse shape than first thought. 

Since that time, the village has been moving through the process needed to clear the lot, but the project’s progress slowed down when the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted pretty much everything.

Now, Sheets said the village has been able to wrap up its to-do list – including both environmental and archaeological assessments –  to prepare the lot for its next life. Once the building is torn down, the plan is to sell the property to a developer, and trustees will also have a say on what the property, located at 6 S. River St., is eventually used for.

“The trustees have the ability and the right as the landowners to be selective of what kind of development occurs there,” Sheets said. 

The village will first need to wrap up its part. Once the building is taken down, the property will require additional environmental assessments before the village can officially sign off on the project and make the brownfield available for a commercial enterprise, or potentially, much-needed housing.

The historical perspective

While the project started before Sheets became village manager, he said he had been inside the building, and it was “pretty cleaned out” the last time he saw it. Anything of historical significance, such as the room keys found on site, have since been gifted to the Swanton Historical Society.

The building does have a long history in Swanton. Built in the 1800s, the three-story building was known as the Adams Hotel before gaining its latest designation as the Riviere Hotel and serving as a hotspot of Swanton night life throughout the 20th century.

Earlier in its career – in the 1930s and 40s – the hotel would host bands traveling in the region, giving them a space to perform for a few days before moving on. At the time, the first floor functioned as a dancehall, and the top two floors housed hotel guests, allowing the hotel to host full weddings and larger events.

By the 70s and 80s, the building became more of a hangout space for Swanton residents looking to shoot pool.

Close to a half a century later, age seems to have caught up with the building. A report examining potential redevelopment projects released by the village in 2016 notes that surface soils surrounding the building may have been “adversely impacted by lead paint or other hazardous building materials.”

That bleedover from the hazardous materials is partially why the project took so long before progressing to the demolition stage. As a local municipality, the village has additional tools to fund redevelopment, but the environmental assessment and necessary cleanup ended up stretching the process.

“When you undertake a project like this, it’s delayed at times, but it’s critically important to follow the right steps,” Sheets said.

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