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April 19, 2022 - 8:47pm

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Calling it “a horrible idea,” Batavia businessman Jerry Arena tonight urged the Town of Batavia Planning Board to turn down a proposal by Benderson Development LLC to construct two restaurants on the parking lot of the former Kmart on Lewiston Road.

Arena was the lone town resident to speak at a public hearing on the Buffalo-based company’s request for special use permits for the drive-thru lanes of the yet-to-be disclosed retail operations. The planning board made it clear prior to the meeting that no action would be taken on the venture tonight.

Benderson is looking to build a 4,000-square-foot restaurant with a drive-thru and bypass lane at one end of the parking lot and a 6,752-square-foot retail/restaurant building with a 2,000-square-foot endcap coffee shop and drive-thru at the other end – both along Lewiston Road (Route 63).

Matthew Oates, engineering director, and Katherine Rowe, design engineer, for Benderson Development opened the meeting by giving a quick update on the company’s plans, mentioning an increase in the green space and landscaping, putting in new curbing and pavement, updating utilities and ensuring sufficient stacking space in the drive-thru lanes.

They said they are waiting on the completion of a traffic impact study – information necessary to keep the project moving forward.

Arena questioned if there would be enough parking spaces left over to accommodate shoppers once another business was found to occupy the former Kmart building.

After that, he was given the podium and articulated his concerns for about 15 minutes, visibly upset but able to keep his anger in check.

PROPOSAL 'AFFECTS' ALL CITIZENS

Armed with several documents, including the project application, Arena said “the mere fact that I got one (a notice of the public hearing) represents the fact that this special use permit affects my property at 8360 Lewiston Road (Jerry Arena’s Pizzeria) and my neighbors – the gun store, the car dealership, Calvin Nichols, the land that I have on Arena Parkway facing Lewiston Road.”

“I just shake my head when I see this and I'm trying not -- if I act like I'm going to be angry, if I'm perceived as I'm angry, it's because I really am. I'm just flabbergasted that this would get this far.”

Arena, citing an already congested traffic area and safety concerns, said that putting these new businesses at the front of the parking lot affects all residents of the town and city of Batavia and Genesee County.

“It affects them when they do their holiday shopping,” he said. “People who I talk to logically, and I say logically, assume that these three new businesses … it’s two buildings, three businesses. They logically assume that when the hear the news, they’re going to go into the old Kmart, which would be the best spot for them.”

He went on to say that he doesn’t “feel sorry for Benderson” because they can put the businesses in (the Kmart building).

“I don’t care how much it costs them and I don’t care if they’ve got to knock part of Kmart down and build a drive-thru,” he said. “This is what most people think – that it’s going to go into the old Kmart.”

‘PROBLEMS ON SEVERAL LEVELS’

Arena said the special use permit creates problems on several levels – “and I don’t even know where to start.”

“My main theme here is at what point do we stop creating and compounding traffic flows on Lewiston and Park roads?” he asked. “Surrounded by traffic flow problems with no sidewalks, this area of Lewiston and Park road will become more dangerous than ever for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists.”

He said planners from years past “got it right” by wanting to place commercial enterprises onto Route 5, a four-lane highway.

“Well, things got turned around and OK, here we are,” he said. “There's big problems. I'm afraid to go down Park Road at night because one day I'm a law-abiding citizen and somebody might jump out at me from Batavia Downs and I'm sitting in my attorney's office facing a vehicle manslaughter charge.”

Arena said the entrance of the new businesses will come out onto Park Road – “as if Park Road isn’t a problem already.”

Noting that he has “a front seat” when looking out his pizzeria window, Arena said traffic is non-stop.

“You want to have a flea market, you want to put something next to my pizzeria, they don’t stop. They stop when the light turns red at Park Road and then you’re going to have to scoot out, because the light is going to change again. So, that’s my key thing here.”

He said that if and when Kmart is occupied again, the entrance and exit points on Lewiston and Park road “will not safely, safely, safely or adequately handle the additional 10,752 square feet of retail space.”

ARE THERE OTHER OPTIONS?

Arena said that as with an eminent domain situation, if planners have other options, “you’d think you’d want to use them.”

“Why can't you fill the Kmart … Batavia is really sought after right now,” he offered. “Batavia is a hot commodity between Buffalo and Rochester; people will come to Batavia.”

He also suggested placing the restaurants in areas where special use permits aren’t necessary, mentioning the Kmart building, property on Route 5 and land that he has for sale at the BJ’s Plaza on the south side of Lewiston Road.

Arena called out “the internet cowards” who say he is worried about competition.

“Oh, that’s really funny,” he said. “I’ve been in business since 1976. I’m not worried about another commercial business. I'm worried about the government more than anything. The government can put me out of business and they seem to be working at it.”

He said the “other swipe” at him is that he is mad because Benderson isn’t looking at the property he has for sale.

“My land for sale doesn’t need any zoning permit. It's at the intersection of Lewiston Road and Veterans Memorial Drive. It's in the BJ’s Plaza,” he said. “All the traffic will be regulated by the traffic light. It’s visible from Lewiston Road -- part of the BJs Plaza. And it’s for sale and doesn't require any kinds of permits.”

SAFETY IS A BIG ISSUE

Planning Board Chair Kathleen Jasinski interjected that a traffic study will be available for review before the board’s next meeting, and stressed that safety is a concern.

Arena said his premise is based on the fact that the former Kmart building is available.

“You can sit here all you want and say, ‘Well, we're filling a vacant parking lot. No, no, the parking lot isn’t vacant, the building's vacant.”

He said he disagrees with Benderson’s position that the project will improve the area and won’t result in a substantial increase in traffic above present levels.

“I don't see how that's mathematically possible,” he said.

Reading from an report in the application, Arena asked, “Are there any pedestrian accommodations or bicycle routes available at or near the site of the proposed action? Check mark, Yes. I don't see any sidewalks bicycle routes. Maybe I'm missing them. Maybe Matthew (Oates) can show me where he bicycle routes are."

“I see babies – two in one day. One in a wagon, getting pushed in the street and one in a stroller. And then you get your handicapped people. They’ve got their flags, and they’re driving their little thing. The mailman has got to be afraid of getting hit. At what (point) do we stop compounding? We've got a problem there.”

Arena said if Panera Bread, Popeyes or Starbucks want to locate in the town, there are spots for them other than the proposed site.

(A call and email to James Boglioli, Northeast director, right to build for Benderson, seeking the names of the businesses were not returned at the time of the posting of this story).

LEGAL ACTION A POSSIBILITY?

While hoping that the planning board votes against issuance of the special use permits, Arena said that he is prepared to take legal action to try and stop the project.

“There's a possibility that if you go through with this, I will file an injunction,” he said. “I've done it in the past and am familiar with that -- with Benderson putting BJ’s Plaza in a residential area, I fought it. I fought the good fight. I lost.”

He said he cares about the citizens of Batavia and reiterated that “it’s just a bad idea.”

Contending that zoning codes were adopted “with the purpose of protecting and promoting public health and safety," Arena said he believes his lawyers would have a “pretty good shot” at stopping the proposal.

In closing, he said he “hates to see this happen when there are other options.”

“Let's make Batavia safe again. Get your ducks in a row,” he said. “If you do issue a permit, get sidewalks. People walking down to Walmart, any of those things. It's a nightmare. It's got to be the worst commercial development possibly in the whole Western New York, if not the whole New York. It’s dangerous.”

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Photos from tonight's Town of Batavia Planning Board public hearing at the Batavia Town Hall on West Main Street Road. Top: Jerry Arena, owner of Jerry Arena's Pizzeria on Lewiston Road since 1976. Bottom: Matthew Oates and Katherine Rowe of Benderson Development. Photos by Mike Pettinella.

Previously: Benderson director gives some details, but keeps the names of the Kmart parking lot tenants to himself

March 10, 2022 - 8:44pm

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An engineering director for the Benderson Development Co. tonight did not reveal what businesses will be coming into a two-track commercial venture on the parking lot of the former Kmart at the intersection of Lewiston and Park roads.

Speaking at the Genesee County Planning Board meeting via Zoom videoconferencing, Matthew Oates said he did not have any signed leases at this point for the proposed project that would create (1) a 4,000-square-foot restaurant with a drive-thru and bypass lane on the southwest corner and (2) a 6,752-square-foot retail/restaurant building with a 2,000-square-foot endcap coffee shop with drive-thru on the southeast corner (see drawing below).

These two businesses would be located along Lewiston Road, using existing entrances to the parking lot off Lewiston and Park. The Kmart building, itself, is not part of the venture.

“We are working with tenants,” said Oates, who was on the call along with Katherine Rowe, design engineer. “And our expectation would be that when the building construction is complete that there will be tenants occupying at least some of the space. We wouldn't be putting these up and then having them sit there vacant. I don’t have anyone I can tell you today. Unfortunately, I wish I could.”

County planners recommended approval of the site plan and special use permit for the project, taking their lead from Planning Director Felipe Oltramari, who stated that the development would pose no significant countywide or intercommunity impact.

It is required, however, that Benderson complies with Town of Batavia zoning regulations as they pertain to signage on the buildings.

Oates said the company plans to add green space “around the buildings (and) additional green islands within the parking lot as well.”

He mentioned that because more than an acre will be disturbed, his company submitted a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan.

“We do have the elevations,” he said. “We think it is an attractive building with the mixture of EIFS cornice, fabric awnings and stone treatments, as well. So, overall, we're very excited for the project to get it start going and to really start redeveloping this section of the Batavia and really, hopefully, bring an enhancement to this area.”

Oates said an additional traffic light won't be necessary since there already is one at the intersection of Lewiston and Park roads.

Planner Tom Schubmehl commended Oates for “doing a nice job controlling traffic on Lewiston,” but asked if there would be an issue of cars cutting through the parking lot from Park Road to the opposite corner.

“Are you going to do anything in the parking lot that's going to prevent people from just blasting through the parking lot from north to south?” he asked.

Oates said nothing specific was in the works, noting that with similar developments, the new businesses “eliminate someone coming in on one side and then just flying through the parking lot to get across because now there's cars in there.”

“There's cars parked there, cars coming in the other direction. So, we find the actual businesses and bringing customers in, really starts to make people follow the traffic and the striping and everything else much more than they do when it's an empty parking lot like it is out there today.”

The project now will be considered by the Town Planning Board, likely at its next meeting on Tuesday night (March 15).

Previously: Developer proposes retail/restaurant businesses on former Kmart property along Lewiston Road

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Top: Architect renderings of outside of proposed buildings at Kmart parking lot. Bottom: Overhead view of the two developments off Lewiston Road.

March 7, 2022 - 12:33pm

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Are they ever going to do something with the former Kmart at the corner of Lewiston and Park roads?

That is yet to be determined but the Benderson Development Co., which owns the building, is ready to place a couple of commercial ventures on another section of the 10.3-acre property at the corner of Lewiston and Park roads in the Town of Batavia.

According to a letter sent to the Town Planning Board by James Boglioli, Right-to-Build Northeast US director for the Buffalo-based real estate firm, two retail/restaurant businesses are being proposed for the site along Lewiston Road – south of the Kmart building:

  • A 4,000-square-foot restaurant with a drive-thru and bypass lane to be located in the southwest corner of the property;
  • A 6,752-square-foot retail/restaurant building with a 2,000-square-foot endcap coffee shop with drive-thru in the southeast corner of the property.

Contacted by telephone this morning, Boglioli declined to provide further details until Thursday night’s Genesee County Planning Board meeting, which is set for 7 o’clock and will be conducted via Zoom videoconferencing.

Furthermore, per the letter, the project also will include drainage upgrades to bring the site into compliance with the current storm water regulations, an increase in overall greenspace and landscaping, utility upgrades and new curbing, pavement and site lighting around the proposed buildings.

As far as parking is concerned, Boglioli’s letter states that the two proposed outparcel buildings will require 84 parking spaces – much less than the 366 parking spaces on the property.

Boglioli’s letter also indicates that, at this point, there are no proposed uses for the 116,238-square-foot Kmart structure – “and any reuse of (that building) is anticipated to require significantly less parking than the former K Mart required per code, and it is expected that the use would be compatible with the proposed outparcel project.”

The referral to be considered by county planners calls for the issuance of a special use permit.

The letter contends that proposed drive-thru configurations will not adversely affect the surroundings and “provide sufficient stacking within two dedicated drive thru lanes and any additional stacking that extends out of the dedicated drive thru lanes would be captured internal to the site.”

Drawing at top shows two restaurant proposals for the former Kmart property along Lewiston Road in the Town of Batavia. The Kmart building is labeled "vacant" at the top of the site map. Provided by Genesee County Planning Department.

July 15, 2021 - 5:53pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Kmart, Henderson development, news, video, batavia.
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An alarm that sounds like an old rotary dial telephone was sounding off this afternoon from the back of the former Kmart building on Lewiston Road, Town of Batavia. 

A dispatcher said people have been calling about it for days.

The registered owner of the property is 570 DAB 30 LLC. The LLC is registered at the same address as Benderson Development, which is also the leasing agent for the property.

570 DAB acquired the property in March 2020 from the Williamington Trust Company for $1,757,000. The assessed value of the property $2,260,000.

Kmart pulled out of Batavia and left behind the vacant hulk of a building in 2018.

We're attempting to get information from Benderson about the unending alarm.

September 15, 2019 - 4:47pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Downs, video, batavia, Kmart.
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During last night's Sire Stakes at Batavia Downs, Western OTB President and CEO Henry Wojtaszek said another company is under contract to purchase the former Kmart location on Lewiston Road, which sits across Park Road from the southern end of the race track.

Western OTB had been interested in acquiring the property to convert into a multi-use facility -- concerts, sporting events, convention center.

Wojtaszek said WOTB doesn't know the name of the potential purchasers, which is conducting due diligence on the acquisition now, but if the deal does not go through, he said, Batavia Downs has been assured it can bid again.

If the deal does go through, Wojtaszek said the purchaser is a company Batavia Downs can work with.

October 16, 2018 - 4:36pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Kmart, Batavia Downs, batavia, news, notify.

For the third time in 13 months, Batavia is losing a big box store -- Office Max; Bed, Bath & Beyond; and now Kmart -- and given the nation's retail trends, it's by no means certain any of these vacant buildings will be filled any time soon.

The last time a big box closed prior to this spate of going-out-of-business sales, it took the landlord only a year to replace Lowe's with Dick's Sporting Goods and Kohl's Department Store but since then e-commerce sales have grown to represent 8 percent of all retail sales (Lowe's announced its closure seven years ago today).

It's also become harder for Industrial Development Agencies in New York, such as Genesee County Economic Development Center, to offer incentives for retail development.

Still, Tom Turnbull, president of the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce, is optimistic none of these big buildings will sit vacant long. He's a Batavia native and has seen a lot of businesses come and go.

"I call it the business circle of life," Turnbull said.

Turnbull remembers when Kmart was located where Aldi is now, and he remembers Twin Fair where the Department of Social Services is now and Valu Home Store in what is now County Building #2. He remembers W.T. Grant at the corner of Harvester and East Main and when Eli Fish Co. was Newberry's.

"It's the ebb and flow of business," Turnbull said. "You never know what is going to happen, especially with these big national retailers. It will fill up again and then it may be empty again."

There have been rumors, which Turnbull has heard, too, that Batavia Downs is interested in the Kmart property.

"It makes a lot of sense for them to have that property," Turnbull said. "It would be good for them and it would be good for us -- it's not unusual for big box stores to sit empty for a long time and become a real eyesore so it would be great for Batavia Downs to come in and swoop it up. It would be good for everybody."

Ryan Hasenauer, director of marketing for Batavia Downs, said in a statement this morning that, "While we do not currently have any timeline information on the store’s closing, we would not rule out an interest in this or any adjacent property to Batavia Downs if it were to become available. Regardless of what happens with the property, we will reach out to Kmart management for some job placement opportunities at Batavia Downs for Kmart employees that will be impacted with a layoff."

The Kmart store is 115,554 square feet and sits on 10.3 acres. The total assessment is $4.1 million, according to county records. The store was built in 1994. The listed owner is Wilmington Trust Company.

Wilmington Trust is affiliated with M&T Bank and specializes in, among other things, acting as administrator for properties held in trust. A trust is a legal entity that holds title to a property for the benefit of another person or group of people, such as heirs to an estate.

While Wilmington Trust is listed as the property owner, Wilmington is strictly and administrator of the property for the beneficiary of the trust, said spokesman Kent Wissinger. The beneficiary is the actual owner and has sole discretion on whether to sell or retain the property.

There is no information available on who is the beneficiary of the trust.

How any potential sale of the property might be handled, Wissinger said, is subject to the terms of the trust and he said he didn't have access to that information.

County records seem to indicate the trust has held title to the property since at least 1994.

Kmart, a subsidiary of Sears Holdings Corp., which declared bankruptcy after years of financial struggles, has not announced a closing date for the store.

October 15, 2018 - 4:45pm
posted by Billie Owens in business, batavia, news, Kmart.

The Kmart on Lewiston Road in Batavia is one of 142 stores owned by Sears Holdings Corp. to be shuttered by year's end. Liquidation sales are expected to begin soon.

The manager of the Batavia store, located at 8363 Lewiston Road, referred us to a corporate spokesman but we have been unsuccessful in contacting him to find out how many local employees will be out of a job.

There are about 700 stores currently open, down from 3,453 stores in 2005 when Kmart Holding Co. bought and merged with Sears Roebuck & Co. in a cash and stock deal then valued at $11 billion. The new entity became Sears Holdings Corp.

Sears Holdings has filed for bankruptcy and plans to reorganize its massive debt and reemerge on more solid ground. It reported liabilities of $11.3 billion and assets of $7 billion. A $134 million debt payment was due that it could not make at the time of filing.

Under the safety net of Chapter 11, Sears Holdings will be able to remain open through the holidays while striving to square away its finances.

But retail business analysts say returning to a position of strength and relevance will be difficult to do. Since the hoopla surrounding the merger in 2005, the parent company has struggled with anemic sales, crippling debt and shifts in consumer spending, especially the juggernaut of e-commerce. 

One advantage e-commerce formerly enjoyed was not having to collect sales tax. But over the years, most U.S. states passed online shopping sales tax laws. Even so, about half of all Amazon.com purchases, for example, are sold on its Amazon Marketplace through third-party vendors, and these purchases remain tax free (with the exception of Washington state).

More to the point, critics say Sears Holdings Corp. is not faring well because it has not reinvested in decaying stores; and it sold off iconic brands like Craftsman tools without giving consumers new brands and incentives to buy. The down slide has been going on for so long, they say, the retailer has become irrelevant and consumers are moving on.

Sears Roebuck & Co. started in 1886 and was able to grow by leaps and bounds thanks to its the proliferation of its mail-order catalog business, using the U.S. Postal Service to deliver goods from its Chicago warehouse to growing suburbs and the hinterlands beyond them. For generations of American families, stores coast to coast sold everything to everybody -- studio portraits and Goodyear tires, Kenmore stoves and Craftsman tools, home goods and engagement rings.

And the "Blue Light Specials" of its once-feisty rival Kmart are pure Americana. A store associate would announce a hot deal over the loudspeaker by saying: "Attention Kmart shoppers..." and the blue lightbulb would flash and for the next 30 minutes, say, there would be a deal in the Shoe Department on bags of tube socks.

"It's always sad to see a local business close," Genesee County Chamber of Commerce President Tom Turnbull told our news partner WBTA late this afternoon, adding that Kmart has been in Batavia a long time and he remembers when it was at the other end of town.

"But that's the circle of life," Turnbull said. "Others will step up and take its place."

August 24, 2017 - 8:29am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Kmart, batavia, business, news.

Kmart in Batavia has again dodged the budget cutting ax of parent company Sears, as the 124-year-old retail giant continues to see sales revenue drop across the country.

This morning, Sears announced that it's closing 28 Kmart locations, but the Batavia store is not on the list.

In July, Sears announced it was closing 35 locations, and neither Kmart nor the local Sears outlet made the list. In all, the company has closed 180 locations in the past year.

The announcement after Sears made its latest revenue report to stockholders, revealing an 11.7-percent drop in sales on a same-store basis. The company lost $251 million for the quarter.

In March, another legendary retail chain, JCPenney, announced it was closing stores across the nation, but Batavia's store was not on the list. 

Kohl's Department Stores has also been struggling with declining retail sales, but that company's CEO said that rather than close stores, it will shrink existing stores.

August 7, 2013 - 8:48pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, Kmart.

A person has managed to get a TV out of Kmart without paying for it, load it in a black pickup truck and then head down Park Road toward the Thruway.

Local law enforcement responding. The Thruway Authority is being notified.

There are two white males in the truck.

UPDATE 8:57 p.m.: A truck has been stopped with a 46" LED TV in the bed.

August 18, 2008 - 10:23pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in thebatavian, Target, Wal-Mart, Kmart.

Tonight I am reading, as I have been for the past three nights, Bill Kauffman's Dispatches from the Muckdog Gazette.

I come to this passage, related to the rising of Wal-Mart in Batavia:

My voice is as mute as the others in that silent night, unholy night. I supposed I am of the old  school of Thoreau and Emerson in that I distrust political solutions and prefer individual revolutions of the soul. I sympathized with those townspeople who wished to keep Wal-Mart out. But instead of passing laws to compel behavior I would rather my neighbors choose to shop locally. They will only do so when Batavia becomes once more a city with its own flavor and fashions. Whether that day will come, I do not know.

For me, if The Batavian can accomplish one thing, it will be to give voice to the people who want Batavia to be Batavia again.

I'm no Pollyanna. I know we cannot put the Brylcreem back in the tube, or unwind the the movie or rebuild C.L. Carr's, but we can promote an ideal that a rural town like Batavia should be more than bathroom break on the Thruway.

We have our corporate sponsors, which means that if the heavens opened up and Wal-Mart or Kmart decided to bequeath to us some ungodly sum of money for advertising (not likely, ever), we couldn't say no, but we are here first and foremost to support the businesses that support Batavia (and the rest of Genesee County).

We only ask one thing -- that you do the same. Before your next trip to Wal-Mart or Target, find out what local shop can do you the same service and patronize that store first.

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