Wegmans’ revised design for a high-end wine or liquor store at its North Buffalo location has met with resistance from neighbors, who are requesting a more urban look.
“Amherst Street is taking off now,” said North District Council Member Joseph Golombek. “We don’t want to hamper that by making it into a suburban area.”
Wegmans presented its plans for a 15,000-square-foot retail store on a grassy area between Amherst Street and its existing parking lot to the Black Rock-Riverside Good Neighbor Planning Alliance this week.
Richard Mack, co-chairman of the planning alliance, said the group is in favor of the project and praised Wegmans for being a good neighbor, but said the design doesn’t look like anything else on Amherst Street.
“Wegmans should be able to do this right,” Mack said.
The meeting marked the company’s second appearance before the alliance, which makes recommendations to the city Planning Board. The company presented a revised design for the store, addressing some but not all of the concerns of the planning alliance, members said.
A new parking lot adjacent to the new store would accommodate about 20 cars, or about half of what the company originally proposed, while maintaining more green- space, which members appreciated.
The exterior of the one-story building was also revised, adding more brick and windows, said Theresa Jackson, Wegmans consumer affairs manager. Wegmans hopes to open the store in 2014.
The planning alliance suggested a two-story, mixed-use building, and said it would like the store entrance to front Amherst Street.
Plans call for the entrance to face east, toward the driveway into the existing lot, not Amherst Street.
Grant-Amherst Business Association President Mark Kubiniec said the company has been supportive of community events and runs an attractive, secure store, but that the design should be multiple story, and allow for several uses.
“It looks like generic strip plaza land, USA. I think it could be a lot better,” Kubiniec said.
Based on feedback this week, the company is trying to incorporate more urban features so it looks less like a suburban Wegmans building, Jackson said.
The planning alliance decided that while it supports the business, it cannot support the design as it is.
“The group isn’t going to give them a go-ahead,” said Evelyn Vossler, planning alliance co-chairwoman.
Golombek said he also would not support the plans as they are.
“I appreciate very much that they came in front of us, but sometimes people think all they have to do is show up,” he said.
The company does not have a tenant in mind, but would like to rent to a high-end wine or wine and liquor store, Jackson said.
The company has lobbied heavily in the State Legislature to allow wine to be sold in grocery stores and offers wine in its Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts stores.
A Wegmans-affiliated company, Century Liquor and Wines, operates near the company’s Pittsford store, but don’t look for a Century to arrive on Amherst Street.
Century can only hold one license in the state, so it will not fill the space, Jackson said.
The development on Amherst Street, if approved, would be the first of its kind for Wegmans in the Buffalo area, she said. Wegmans would like to appear before the city Planning Board on Feb. 26.
The company also is expanding its seating for its Market Cafe at the Amherst Street store, which is scheduled to begin in spring or summer. Construction on the new retail store will follow in the fall, for a 2014 opening, Jackson said.