September 25, 2002

City Board Gives OK For Project

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Ithaca’s Planning and Development Board approved plans last Tuesday for a new shopping center in the southwestern area of the city. The shopping center, whose plans include 430,000 square feet of retail area, will host national chains Wal-Mart and Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse.

Plans

Buffalo-based Benderson Development Co. received the city’s preliminary consent for the shopping center Aug. 27 when the Planning Board unanimously approved the plans. Future phases for the planning and construction of the retail center will begin pending the site’s drainage inspection and approval by civil engineer Tom West.

A spokesperson from Benderson could not comment on the pending project due to a nondisclosure agreement.

Plans for the shopping center include a bridge extending over the flood relief channel and additional infrastructure allowing patrons to avoid Route 13 when exiting the complex. Walkways allowing shoppers to safely return to their cars after leaving the center are also included in the plans.

Concerns

Concerns from already-existing city retailers and other miscellaneous Ithacan entities have circulated in recent weeks as pending plans for the center have publicly surfaced.

At their August meeting, Wegmans Food Markets Inc. submitted a letter objecting to the plan’s parking provisions. Questioning the city’s ability to complete its Six-Point Traffic Plan — which would widen South Meadow St. and extend Taughannock Blvd. — before the shopping center’s completion, Wegmans civil engineer Carol J. Duquette’s letter articulated the company’s concerns.

Wegmans could not comment on the pending competitor because of a publicity policy.

Widewaters Group, a real estate development and management company based in DeWitt, also voiced concerns regarding the retail center’s parking provisions. Currently constructing a 200,000-square-foot retail center on Elmira Rd., the group also submitted a letter to the Planning and Development Board questioning the plan’s traffic provisions.

H. Matthys Van Cort, Ithaca’s director of planning and development, responded to these concerns saying that the city’s Six-Point Traffic Initiative should be completed before the retail center opens.

Representatives from the City of Ithaca’s Planning and Development Board did not respond to The Sun’s multiple inquiries for comment.

In addition to logistical concerns, other Ithaca students and residents are concerned that the city may not need or support any more commercial retailers. With Target opening at Pyramid Mall next month and stores like Kmart, Wegmans and Tops already in existence, some believe that competing retailers are not necessary to the city’s economy.

“I think there is enough price competition as is,” said Matthew Lazarus ’05. “At this point in the economy, I think any commercial expansion such as this is risky.”

Other students, however, invite the additional commerce that new large stores could offer to Ithaca.

“I think that Ithaca, in general, is lacking several stores needed both by the students and townspeople,” said Kristen Henderson ’05. “A Wal-Mart would be a great start in providing a greater diversity of products. Bring it on, baby.”

“I think that it’s a good idea to put in [more retailers] so long as they are clearly distinct businesses,” said Robert Cohen ’04. “Wal-Mart is very similar to Kmart and Target, but I think we need a Lowe’s or Home Depot kind of place. A new shopping center is fine. I think the city can support one.”

Benderson plans to begin construction on the retail center this fall.


Archived article by Ellen Miller