CARMEL, N.Y. - Plans to convert the old Friendly’s restaurant building on Stoneleigh Avenue to a Taco Bell have received the green light from the Planning Board.
The board voted 5-1 last month to approve a revised site plan.
Anthony Giannico, the Planning Board co-chair, was the lone “no” vote. Giannico has expressed since the beginning of the site plan approval process his displeasure over the architectural changes to the building, particularly to the roofline and the plans to remove the cupola.
“[We] specifically focused in on the roofline and asked you to address that—how we’d like the look of a building [to be] in line with our vision,” Giannico said at a meeting back in August. “And I see before me a revision that totally disregards that. I would have liked to see a revision with the current roofline. Obviously, it had to be altered at some point to meet the needs of Taco Bell, but what I see before me is a blatant disregard of the board’s comments. I do have an issue with that.”
Paul Dumont, a senior engineer at JMC Engineering, who represented Kai Carmel, the property’s owner, during the site plan approval process, told Giannico at the time that keeping the cupola was not an option for Taco Bell.
Dumont said keeping the cupola wasn’t an option for Taco Bell.
“We understand the board [liked] that existing architecture but it was not an option for our clients to keep that existing roofline,” he said. “It’s very much Friendly’s corporate architecture. We feel that the plan before you balances both sides the best that we can.”
Eric Levitz, the architect on the project, told the board at the August meeting that the building currently features Friendly’s iconic architecture and Taco Bell needed to change that.
“That is Friendly’s corporate architecture. Every Friendly’s was built in that direction with that roofline,” he said. “In the eyes of Taco Bell, we just can’t come in there and put a sign on a Friendly’s building. There is no modifying it; either it would be a complete scrape or rebuilding.”
However, Dumont said he had worked closely with Vince Mellusi of the Elmsford-based Warshauer Mellusi Warshauer Architects PC, the town’s architectural consultant, to discuss the changes and make some compromises.
“What we came up with, I think, is a balance with the existing surroundings along with [Mellusi’s] recommendations,” Dumont said.
A public hearing on the site plan application was held at the Planning Board’s Sept. 11 meeting but no one from the public elected to speak on the topic.
But at the board’s Sept. 25 meeting, Giannico said he was still unhappy with the architectural changes and cast a no vote.
“The board was very clear on what they’d hope to see with that building and I feel it was a poor attempt; that is just my personal feeling,” he said.
Planning Board Chair Craig Paeprer said he felt the architects did the best they could with the constrictions they were under.
“Our consultant has been quite involved in this and I think there have been some good improvements,” he said. “It might not be exactly [what we wanted, but] they are dealing with a Friendly’s building and did the best they could.”
A second tenant will eventually be added to the building, but Dumont told the board there is no word yet on who that might be.
Paeprer asked if, once the new tenant moves in, would it impact the aesthetic of the building. Dumont said it wouldn’t.
“The architecture is set,” he said. “We submitted a package for the second tenant and the only change that you will see from what you see now is that the second tenant’s name will be in that place instead of the word ‘tenant.’ The resolution [approving the site plan] was worded so that the second tenant must maintain the same character and look that was approved.”
Dumont added that his “clients are excited for construction to begin and to be a part of the community.”
Calls to Dumont seeking an estimated time for when construction might begin were not returned.