Cheektowaga residents generally agree that the vacant Garden Village Plaza is an eyesore, but they’re at odds over a proposal to redevelop the site into office and warehouse space.
A large crowd was on hand Wednesday night in South Line Fire Hall on French Road, where James A. Boglioli of Benderson Development Co. outlined plans for the property at French and Union roads. Earlier this month, Benderson filed an application to change the property’s zoning from retail business to light manufacturing.
Boglioli acknowledged that the plaza has been vacant for a significant period of time, despite the developer’s efforts to attract retail tenants. “This is the plan we’re going with at this point,” he said.
The proposal calls for a new building – 35 feet tall and 163,787 square feet, as well as refurbishing the existing 177,354-square-foot building to match. Warehouse use is envisioned for the new building and part of the plaza that housed a department store; the rest of the existing structure would be office space.
There’s also a new name: Garden Village Commerce Park.
A buffer zone along the eastern edge would be maintained, Boglioli said, and additional landscaping is planned throughout. Loading docks for the two warehouses would face each other.
“It’s going to be a very attractive building,” Boglioli said. “You will not see any loading docks from any residential street.”
If approved, construction will move forward without tenants, Boglioli said. “We have done a study and there’s a need for this kind of space in the area,” he said.
His presentation frequently was interrupted by questions, as well as derisive comments.
“You can yell at me all day,” an exasperated Boglioli said at one point. “I’m here because I want to explain the project.”
Some residents said they want retail businesses on the site, such as a big-box store. Boglioli said marketing efforts were unsuccessful, even when the developer offered to demolish the plaza and build new.
“They won’t go in this site,” he said.
Residents critical of the plan are concerned about truck traffic, diesel fumes and noise.
“This is a residential area,” said a resident of Hickory Grove, a patio home development off French Road. “I don’t want this to turn into the Peace Bridge, where all those people are breathing those diesel fumes.”
An environmental assessment form filled out by Benderson estimates 150 trucks would visit the site daily. It also indicates operating hours would be 24-7, although town officials said there is a local law prohibiting deliveries between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.
Impact studies to be done on issues of concern could take from several months to a year, Boglioli said. Construction would take another year once the plan is approved.
“I want to know what’s going to happen now,” another resident said. Several people in the audience commented on rat infestations at the decrepit plaza; Boglioli said that could be addressed immediately.
Some who spoke positively about the proposal were heckled. Among them was Councilman Jerry Kaminski.
“The biggest thing I’m happy about: something’s going to be done with it,” Kaminski said.