Since it was built, the Riviera has been the focal point and symbol of the City of Lake Geneva. For better or for worse, the Riviera has and continues, to reflect the look and attitude of the city. When first built it showed the resilience and unity of the city during the great depression, but the restricted access at that time, to various racial and ethnic groups, also showed a directed biased perception many others. Though the years the Riviera has changed and now has come to reflect the more modern and open view of the city’s residents. Few remember the opening of the 18-year-old bar on the upper floor of the Riviera in the ’60s and on to its closing. Some remodeling, updating and the addition of a fountain plaza in 2004 as a centerpiece in front of Riviera were significant improvements.
Today, the Riviera still resides as the lakeside heart of the city and it is the focal point of the turmoil and the split within the city over repurposing versus restoration. The changes to the Riviera and the potential closing of Wrigley Drive to make the lakefront area into one large resort complex is still being quietly discussed. The Riviera reflects the City of Lake Geneva and it is at the heart of the current division within the city and the fight over its future. The repairing and refurbishing of the Riviera, and making other changes are not forces seen as unifying the community, but instead, reflect the dominance of those with authority over the rest of the community. Whether it is the addition of oversized fuel tanks by Gage that raised the ground level, making some citizens very angry, or the additions of oversized windows to the Riviera building itself, (which requires the removal of the Riviera’s window sills), the Riviera’s restoration/repurposing details, the potential closing down of Wrigley Drive; the Riviera, as it has been since its construction, remains the heart of the city and a reflection of the attitude of the city itself. There seems to be a destructive split within the city about how to repurpose the city for future growth and image. The government should not be about what one group wants or about what another group wants, nor should it be about what those with money, power or authority within the city want or what the governing body of the city wants. It should be about the residents and what the majority of the residents want because the City of Lake Geneva’s identity is all about the residents and it should be a city of and for the residents. Residents include all of those who live in the city and call the city home, including those who are full-time, part-time, seasonal, owners and even renters and boarders
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