Buchakjian asked the Planning Board to conditionally approve the proposal so he can complete contract negotiations with three new tenants including True Value, JoAnne Fabrics, and Party City. But unanswered questions about parking and traffic prompted the board to continue a public hearing for another two weeks.
The first phase of the project would include a new facade at the front section of the mall. The facade will include branded archways for the three new tenants and the existing Rite Aid drug store. Buchakjian said the footprint of the mall building would not be changed, and no changes to the parking lot are anticipated. A new directory sign that alerts passers-by to the stores in the mall is also being presented to the Planning Board in a separate proposal.
While the board seemed well disposed toward the project, they voiced concerns about the design and traffic flow. In an unofficial poll of planning board members approval of the look of the proposed facade was split by gender. Maria Stycos and Lisa Schleelein said they would prefer a more subdued design with less distinction between the branding for the various store entries. But Tomei, Phil Dankert, Richard Durst, and board alternate Jonathan Kanter said they like the bold entryways that were shown in architects' renderings.
"The facade looks extremely busy," Stycos said. "There is a blue arch and a green arch... I would like you to soften it a little bit."
"Much of that is dictated by the tenants," Buchakjian said. "Perhaps we can look at the heights and the balance of it all. From a distance this will allow each of these retailers to have an identity."
Planning Board Chairman Mario Tomei said that the project is permitted under zoning for the area, but the board was not prepared to vote on granting a special permit unless questions about pedestrian traffic to the storage area, to be used as an outdoor garden center with its own cashier and enclosure for products, in the parking lot between the main mall building and Friendly's. Buchakjian said he anticipates that people would park near the enclosure if they shop there, and there would not be a lot of foot traffic between the enclosure and the store. The enclosure would be near a service road where large delivery trucks drop off merchandise behind the mall.
"We'll talk to the tenant about moving the entrance to the corner or the other side to try to steer foot traffic away from the area where trucks go through," Buchakjian said. "I think that would alleviate any kind of concern."
Village engineer Brent Cross added that striping to direct foot and truck traffic would also be desirable.
The public hearing was continued until the August 13th meeting at which time Tomei anticipated the Planning Board will vote to approve or deny the special permit. Buchakjian said he was anxious to provide answers to all concerns board members had. He said he would consult with Village Superintendent of Public Works John Courtney and Code Enforcement/Zoning Officer Marty Moseley before that meeting.
If the special permit is approved Buchakjian says he hopes construction will begin in late summer or early fall.
"These tenants would like to be in these spaces this year," he said. "It depends a lot on how quickly we can get drawings done, and so on. Realistically I would say people could expect early 2013 openings."