Schenectady County

Walgreens, bank plan to be aired

Walgreens is proposing to locate a new store at a shopping plaza proposed for Route 50 that was orig

Walgreens is proposing to locate a new store at a shopping plaza proposed for Route 50 that was originally going to house Panera Bread.

Developer Thomas Burke is also trying to get approval for a Walgreens in Schenectady at the busy intersection of Brandywine Avenue and State Street, but his proposal has been met with significant criticism thus far. Many city officials say the design is too “suburban” for an active urban center, particularly because the pharmacy chain wants a 67-foot setback from the road with parking in front of the store. He attempted to allay those concerns Monday by meeting with the Schenectady City Council, but the reaction was not enthusiastic.

In Glenville, Burke wants to construct a 14,820-square-foot pharmacy and a 2,703-square-foot bank at 303 Saratoga Road across from the Price Chopper plaza.

Panera Bread was originally supposed to be the anchor for this development, which was once the site of a Dollar Store and tile shop that was demolished last year. However, Panera pulled out last fall because store officials said they already had restaurants in Niskayuna and Clifton Park and they did not think the market could support another one.

In April, the Nigro Companies had received approval for a bank and multi-tenant building. Now, the latest incarnation of the plan abandons the multi-tenant building and proposes the pharmacy and a bank. The Planning and Zoning Commission will review the proposal when it meets at 7 p.m. on Monday at Glenville Town Hall.

Planning Director Kevin Corcoran said the property has changed hands. Burke of Malta bought it from the Nigro Companies for $1.35 million in April. TJ Development of Glenville LLC is handling the project.

The bank had previously been named as Pioneer Savings Bank, but it was not known Monday if that is still the case.

Walgreens spokeswoman Carol Hively said the company has not signed any lease or purchase agreement at this time. “It sounds like it’s in the early stages,” she said.

Hively said Walgreens has been expanding very rapidly throughout New York and looking at a lot of locations.

Walgreens has about 6,300 drug stores nationwide including 144 in the state. Among its locations are Amsterdam, Colonie, Delmar, Guilderland, Latham, Troy and Wilton.

Walgreens recently pulled out of a proposal to locate a pharmacy in Rotterdam at Capitol Plaza at the corner of Curry Road and Altamont Avenue. Company officials gave no reason for deciding not to go forward, but Burke said the decision was the result of a disagreement between the property owner and the developer. Burke was not involved in that transaction.

Walgreens has also had trouble finding a location in Schenectady. The pharmacy chain was unsuccessful in buying the vacant Eckerds property at the corner of Brandywine and State Street. Rite Aid bought the land and has no plans to either develop it or sell it to a competitor because Rite Aid has a pharmacy across the street.

Burke convinced the company to consider the other corner of Brandywine and State, where Fratello’s Restaurant sits vacant. But the company wanted its building set more than 100 feet away from the road, as well as building a connector driveway through the residential neighborhood to McClellan Street.

That plan has now been dropped in favor of the 67-foot setback and only two entrances, off Brandywine and State.

Burke called the change a compromise.

“We don’t roll over for these guys,” he said, referring to Walgreens. “We said, ‘Look, this is dead on arrival. If you want to engender animosity, go in with that. We can’t deliver that.’”

He asked the City Council to support the project, which is up for Planning Commission review. The council has no authority over whether the project is approved, but Burke said its support would be a significant help to him.

He argued that the project would bring jobs — including high-paid pharmacy positions — and $50,000 in county, city and school taxes. Mayor Brian U. Stratton spoke highly of those benefits as well.

But the council offered little support. Councilwoman Barbara Blanchard criticized the proposal as a “suburban design” and said Burke should follow the city’s new design standards, particularly the rule that buildings can be no more than 10 feet from the road.

The Zoning Board of Appeals gave Burke permission to build farther from the street, but has not yet acted on several other variances Burke would need. His proposed building is too large and has too many parking spaces to meet the city’s requirements. Burke also wants a drive-through.

Stratton said the building would spruce up a blighted corner, but Blanchard said the city should enforce its new design rules and predicted that the plan would be shot down by the planning commission.

In other Glenville business, the town commission will review a proposal by Charlton Suburban Services to expand the Smith Sand Pit at 1648 North Road from 10 acres to 16.5 acres.

Corcoran said the gravel mine has existed since the 1980 and is located in a rural location.

“You won’t even know it’s there. It’s a small scale operation. It seems very well run,” he said.

The town has very little control over these operations, Corcoran said, because they are regulated by the Department of Environmental Conservation.

The Zoning Board of Appeals because any expansion of an existing gravel mine in the rural residential/agricultural district requires a conditional use permit.

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