by Susan Mikula Campbell
With the weather finally becoming more springlike, residents and visitors in the Town of Niagara as usual will start seeing more and more construction vehicles at work. But this year, more commercial construction than ever is expected, especially along Military Road.
Town of Niagara building inspector Chuck Haseley has been hard at work with building permits and plans to be presented to the town's Planning Board. It's not unusual for the town to have 600 to 800 building permits per year, but there has been nothing of this commercial magnitude within the last five years, he said.
The largest project, of course is the addition to Fashion Outlets of Niagara by new mall owners Macerich Partnership LP. The $71 million project will include a new addition and entrance off Fashion Outlet Boulevard, providing about 50 new stores.
Haseley doesn't expect to see a project this large again in his career. In a given year, any of the other large commercial projects being considered or already underway would have been considered major, he said.
"There's not too many communities that build something like this, especially a smaller town like ours," he said.
Some work already is underway on foundations and utilities at the mall under state brownfield permits, and Haseley expects to issue more permits this week.
Other large projects include Benderson Development's Military Place at the site of the former John's Flaming Hearth restaurant and the old Perkins restaurant building.
Tenants for the Perkins building include a Five Guys burgers and fries restaurant and a TCBY frozen yogurt restaurant, according to Town Supervisor Steve Richards.
Haseley is currently reviewing permits for tenant build-outs for the two restaurants and for building façade modifications.
Work has already begun on the DaVita Health Care Partnership kidney dialysis building at 2932 Military Road at the corner of Edgewood Drive.
Another large project is the Fichte, Endl & Elmer Eyecare ambulatory surgery center on property off Porter Road near the I-190 entrance, behind the St. Vincent de Paul Church (St. Leo's). That project's site plan review might be ready for the April Planning Board meeting.
In all projects, Richards and Haseley agree that drainage is a prime concern. Fashion Outlets' plans for containment of drainage has been carefully scrutinized and it is hoped the project will actually help drainage problems in other nearby areas.
Residential neighbors near the proposed Military Place construction have attended board meetings asking that special care be taken, both with drainage and preserving trees that form a boundary to their properties.
"I'm all for smart growth," Richards said. "They just need to be very conscious of the residents in that area."
Final plans for Military Place still have to receive approval from the Planning Board and the Town Board.
Eric Recoon, Benderson vice president of development and leasing, said his office resubmitted plans late Wednesday afternoon for the new construction portion (on the John's Flaming Hearth property) of Military Place.
Among the changes is a 50 percent increase in the buffers next to the residential area by removal of some parking area.
Recoon said no decision had been made as yet on whether the proposed changes will first be revealed at a Town Board or a Planning Board meeting.
The Town Board will meet at 7 p.m. April 15. The next Planning Board meeting will be at 7 p.m. April 22.
Construction also is roaring ahead at the former site of LaSalle High School in the 1500 block Military Road. That property used to be part of the Town of Niagara, but was given to the City of Niagara Falls to build the school in the 1960s. Bed, Bath & Beyond most recently opened a store at that site and there's more to come.