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NEW SHOPPING PLAZA PLANNED ON FORMER GARY PONTIAC SITE

Delaware Avenue in North Buffalo will continue its transformation into a retail corridor if Benderson Development Co. gets approval to build a new shopping plaza.

If approved by the city, a Tim Hortons restaurant with a drive-through window would be the first tenant in a new shopping center on the site of the former Gary Pontiac dealership.

Benderson has already demolished the existing buildings at 2262 Delaware Ave., across from Tioga Street. In addition to Tim Hortons, a second neighboring parcel is available, said Eric Recoon, vice president of leasing for the northeast region.

North of that site would be a 21,000-square-foot shopping plaza. Benderson is negotiating with potential tenants for the space. Benderson will meet with a community coalition called the Good Neighbors Planning Alliance to discuss the impact of the project. The meeting is tentatively scheduled for 5 p.m. Thursday at City Hall.

Benderson Development has almost single-handedly transformed Elmwood and Delaware avenues in North Buffalo into shopping corridors.

Benderson's largest project in the area was Delaware Consumer Square, which debuted in 1996 at Delaware and Hinman avenues. Home to Target, Tops Market and Regal Cinemas, it still reigns as the city's largest retail complex with some 500,000-square-feet of retail space.

The former Gary Pontiac site would be the fourth shopping plaza Benderson has built along Delaware Avenue in North Buffalo.

Last year, Benderson turned the site of the former Delaware Park Memorial Chapel at 2141 Delaware Ave., between Amherst Street and Hertel Avenue, into a shopping center that is home to Feel Rite Fresh Markets and Total Tan.

In 2003, Benderson demolished the former Tunmore Oldsmobile dealership at 2670 Delaware Ave., between Ramsdell and Hinman avenues, and built a shopping center that is now home to Evans National Bank.

In 2002, Benderson opened a plaza on the site of the former Saratoga Restaurant and Bauer Radiator at Delaware and Kenmore avenues, which is now home to Starbucks and Bagel Jay's. Benderson also owns the Kmart plaza, the former Ames Department Store and a Delta Sonic car wash on Delaware Avenue. Benderson also developed the Marshall's plaza and the plaza across the street that houses Pet Supplies Plus. Benderson also developed the plaza at Delaware and Hertel avenues that includes Blockbuster, Cricket Communications, Louie's Hot Dogs and Just Pizza.

Some plazas that Benderson developed now belong to Developers Diversified Realty, as part of a $2.3 billion sale last year.

Just about the only plazas in north Buffalo that Benderson didn't build are the Home Depot plaza on Elmwood Avenue and the Blockbuster plaza on Delaware Avenue, north of Avery Avenue.

Ed McDermid, president of Frontier Lumber on Elmwood Avenue, remembers when factories lined Elmwood Avenue and car dealerships, small businesses and homes lined Delaware Avenue. As manufacturing jobs have left the area, retailers have replaced the factories. The site of the former Bell Aircraft assembly plant on Elmwood Avenue is now a Home Depot, and the site of the former Atlas Steel Co. on Elmwood is now a Regal Cinemas.

"They're recycling the old plants into something that's more usable today," McDermid said. "The world is changing to more of a service-oriented industry than the old heavy industry."

The new shopping centers have been a good mix to the light industrial already in the area, said Daniel Keane, president and CEO of Mod-Pac Corp., a printing company on Elmwood Avenue, south of Hertel Avenue.

"The central location and the population density are probably attractive to Benderson," he said. "The whole area benefits from the development."

e-mail: lhaarlander@buffnews.com