Plans were presented Monday to the Village of Lewiston Planning Board to transform the former Schmitt's Robo Mart on Cayuga Street into a Tops Xpress store and fuel station.
Lewiston Tops owner Anthony DiMino closed on the vacant property about two-and-a-half weeks ago. He wants to reopen the gas station and convenience store, which was most recently a Crown Mart gas retailer.
DiMino said his motivation in purchasing the parcel came from watching customers leave the village.
"I'm forcing my customers to go to Niagara Falls stores for gas," he said.
This is especially true when Tops bonus card members earn redemption points, which can be used to purchase gas at a hefty discount (up to 50 cents off per gallon) at Tops fuel locations. DiMino said his Tops store loses money when that promotion is offered, because patrons buying gas at the Niagara Falls locations often stay and grocery-shop, too.
This second Tops location would also offer Lotto tickets, milk, beer and other quick-fix amenities.
"It will be a regular convenience store," DiMino said.
The project, which he pegged at between $500,000 and $1 million, would include new gas pumps, fuel lines and safety controls; a new roof, windows and doors; and a smoothing out of the uneven store floor.
DiMino hired Buffalo's Carmina Wood Morris to develop the engineering plan.
He expects work to begin upon approval from the Planning Board. Prior to that happening, however, DiMino will need variance approval from the village Zoning Board of Appeals. The Tops Xpress plan calls for signage and parking configurations that fall outside of the B-1 (general business) zoning schedule.
For that reason, the Planning Board denied project approval this week. Nevertheless, board members indicated their satisfaction with DiMino's idea and suggested he seek relief from the ZBA. Pending approval, the Planning Board could hold a special meeting after the ZBA wraps its 6:30 p.m. session on Tuesday, Nov. 9, and reconsider the Tops project.
"I'm excited about the reuse of the building," Planning Board Chairman David Giusiana said. "It's certainly better than what it is now, which is vacant."
He said Tops has a history of retail success, and that the proposed aesthetic modifications would be "absolutely positive effects on the location."
If all goes according to DiMino's plan, "I'm hoping to open by March," he said.
DiMino said the Tops Xpress would employee 10 people.