October 21, 2021

Time for a facelift

Riverside Plaza enters 51st year

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Work is being done on the facade of the Riverside Plaza on Clinton Avenue in Cortland in anticipation of new tenants and to repair crumbling sections of the facade.

If you’ve stopped by the Riverside Plaza off Clinton Avenue lately, chances are you’ve seen parts of the storefronts bare.

Graffiti, in the form of words and images, runs along old uncovered walls near the back portion of the plaza next to the Dollar General.

Metal framing is exposed along the top of the facade of a former department store near the rear of the plaza. Toward the top of the building, layers of concrete and bricks are visible. Tan siding lines businesses between Cost Cutters and the P&C Fresh supermarket.

Dave Muraco of Syracuse, owner of the Riverside Plaza, said work at the project, which includes some facade improvements, was spurred after some of the old facade and insulated siding began falling off.

The work will stretch through the plaza from the P&C Fresh to Joann Fabrics and Crafts, Muraco said. “We just started (work) around five weeks ago,” he said.

Once work is finished, Muraco hopes to have new, larger tenants at the plaza going into spaces between the P&C Fresh and Cost Cutters. Muraco would not say who the tenants are.

However, in the larger area at the back of the plaza, Muraco said a climate-controlled self-storage facility was being installed inside what was once a Zayre department store in the 1980s and an Ames in the 1990s. At first, around 200 storage units would be available. When finished, there will be close to 400.

Construction at the plaza began in 1967 with a 22,000-square-foot grocery, P&C, the first of what was planned to be 200,000 square feet of retail space. Over the years, it was expanded, enclosed as a mall, partly demolished, expanded with the department store and other space added, and renovated again.

Muraco bought the plaza in 2009 and it’s been almost 10 years since any work has been done there, he said. “It’s a great property,” Muraco said. “We’re fighting back with improvements.”

Updating the facade will boost the curb appeal, he said. Work on the site is expected to last until May or June. Within the next six months Muraco hopes to have new tenants occupying spaces.

Bob Haight, executive director of the Cortland County Chamber of Commerce, said he has heard about the potential of the new businesses to bring in regular daily traffic to the plaza, including outof-county travelers from Interstate 81. “It’s great for the area,” he said.

With the work at Riverside Plaza, Haight said it could be only at matter of time before other businesses in the area follow suit, citing the book “The Tipping Point.”

“With so much momentum, people don’t want to get left behind,” Haight said. Spaces at the plaza have sat vacant for years and the anticipated new businesses are promising, he said. “It’s a huge plus for everybody.”