MAHOPAC, N.Y. - A complete overhaul of the Lake Plaza Shopping Center, including the construction of a new 54,000 square-foot Stop & Shop, was proposed last Wednesday to the Carmel Planning Board. If approved, the new grocery store would replace the existing Key Food and CVS stores, which would be demolished.
The new Stop & Shop would be more than 20,000 square-feet larger in size than the two existing stores. The Key Food is 24,000 square-feet and the CVS is 7,800 square-feet (31,800 all together), according to the site plan application. An additional 3,785 square-foot retail store would be constructed next to the Stop & Shop.
The owner of the property, Mahopac Drive In Theatre, Inc., is also proposing several aesthetic and traffic improvements. With the exception of K-Mart, the façades on all of the plaza’s existing stores would be renovated to match the new look of the Stop & Shop, said Mike Junghans, a civil engineer with Vanasse, Hangen & Brustlin, Inc.
The parking lot, which Planning Board members described as a “race track,” would be completely repaved and upgraded, according to the site plan. There would be landscape islands created throughout the parking lot to deal with motorists who drive across the lot, Junghans said.
“It’s a sea of asphalt. There’s no delineation,” Junghans said. “People drive right across the parking area. There’s no good channelization of the traffic.”
Planning Board members also commented that the parking lot is “wavy,” possibly because it used to be a drive-in movie theater. Junghans said he and his team will look into addressing that.
Board members warmly received the project, but had issues with the conceptual design of the Stop & Shop. One board member commented that the “modern look” is not a “direction the town is looking to go.”
Geraldine Tortarella, counsel for the applicant, said the design is a “work in progress” and the applicant is willing to work with the Planning Board on reaching a compromise—possibly a mix of “contemporary and modern.”
“We want it to work,” Tortarella said. “We want it to be attractive.”
The Planning Board is in the process of hiring an architectural advisor to help with projects like these, said Chair Harold Gary. That person alone, at the direction of the Planning Board, will work with the applicant on a final design. Gary said the board has no intentions of holding the project up, but said he wants a finished product everybody can be happy about.
“We don’t know what we want, but we know we want an architect to come and look at what is in our town and what the town wants,” Gary said. “Then we want to talk to you about it. That person, he or she, will speak for this board.”
Planning Director Patrick Cleary said the renovation has significant benefits to the town and is an overall improvement to the center. One concern of his, however, is how the additional square footage will alter the parking configuration. The conceptual design shows new parking spaces in the rear of the building, which is currently used for loading.
“While they are doing that to achieve the parking compliance number, it’s not clear that those spaces are particularly customer friendly,” Cleary said. “If you park in the back, you have to walk around the entire building to come to the front. They are providing walkways and painted aisles to get around the building, but that’s not a particularly convenient place to park if I’m going to the supermarket.”
Junghans said those spots will be primarily used by employees of the stores and not customers. He also said a “spin circle” will be added in the rear of the building to assist delivery trucks entering and exiting the shopping center.
Junghans said new LED lighting is also being proposed for the center. The light poles will be the same height (25 feet), but there would be more poles throughout the shopping center. Tortarella said Stop & Shop “is on the leading edge” of green technology and sustainable practices, which will be incorporated into the design.
The conceptual designed included a Starbucks logo on the Stop & Shop building, but Junghans said the coffee shop is not yet confirmed at the location.
All of the site expansion will be contained on the north-west side of the property, said Tortarella. She said prior iterations of the Planning Board have approved expansions of the shopping center on three separate occasions, and is hopeful the board will also approve this expansion.
“It’s important for us to get going, develop the momentum and to move forward and work with your board and your other boards from which we need approval in a cooperative manner, so we really can realize a reinvention of this shopping center,” she said. “We’re really excited about that.”
Tortarella said the project has a “small amount” of disturbance to the north side wetlands, but does not disturb the wetland buffer area. She said she does not believe the project will require a wetlands permit from the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
Because the parking lot is being repaved and reconfigured, the project will likely require storm water permits issued by the county, city and state. It also requires variances granted by the Carmel Zoning Board of Appeals and site plan approval by the Planning Board.
The Planning Board will meet again to discuss the application after it hires an architectural advisor. Gary said will that will sometime in early 2016.