Some popular names in local consignment shopping circles may have to find new homes.
An aging retail strip in Williamsville best known for its array of popular used clothing shops is slated to be torn down and replaced with a two-story, brick facility, if the son of the longtime owner gets approval from both the village and the Town of Amherst.
The long, single-story concrete complex at Main Street and Hirschfield Drive has been a frequent stop for harried mothers and others looking for good-quality used clothing, toys, books and other items, or eager to sell their own used items.
Located directly across from Williamsville South High School, the little plaza has included Finders Keepers, Second Performance, Peddlers and New Life, among other shops, and also has a single apartment that’s been vacant for about a year.
Dr. Lawrence N. Teruel, an ear-nose-throat physician from Sierra Vista, Ariz., whose father had owned the property for years, now wants to redevelop the site.
Under the $5 million to $7 million project, a proposed L-shaped brick building would anchor the corner of Main and Hirshfield, with parking for 98 cars. It would total 37,292 square feet, with 18,646 square feet of retail storefronts or restaurant space on the first floor and 12 to 18 upscale apartments on the second floor.
Specific plans for the apartments have not been determined, but “they’ll be luxury apartments,” said David Sutton, principal of Sutton Architecture in Williamsville, who handled the design work.
The parking area in front of the current building would be eliminated, and the front of the new building would come up to the sidewalk, in keeping with new design standards for pedestrian-friendly buildings and stores.
The project would also include a detached, single-story, eight-bay garage in the rear for some residents.
No leases have been signed for the retail space, and Sutton said the project is “not far enough in the design process to entertain” specific proposals. But he confirmed that Lexington Co-op, among others, has at least expressed interest in the building.
“We seem to have a lot of positive feedback and positive momentum on this project. Everyone, including the village and surrounding businesses, are very excited about it,” Sutton said. “There’s a definite demand for retail in the area.”
Lexington Co-op declined to say if it is looking at the building. “Our long-term vision is to have a thriving co-op in every community that wants one,” said general manager Tim Bartlett. “We are looking for the best location for our next step. We’re open to everything.”
Teruel is in the process of buying the property from the estate of his late father, Dr. Lorenzo T. Teruel, who had tried unsuccessfully several times to develop the property himself.
He has started seeking approvals from both Williamsville and Amherst because the property straddles the village-town border. The village gave preliminary Planning Board approval, and the town granted a “special-use” zoning variance to allow for the rear parking on what is otherwise residential land, said Gary Black, deputy planning director for the town.
“Because it’s half in the village and half in the town, it got a little complex,” said Teruel’s attorney, Sean W. Hopkins, of Hopkins & Sorgi in Williamsville. “It’s a strange one to deal with two municipalities.”
Teruel hopes to begin construction this year. However, final engineering work and site-plan designs have not yet been submitted to either the village or the town, which is required before work can begin.
“The project’s going to happen. There’s a commitment to do this,” Hopkins said. “It’s an exciting mixed-use project, and we think it’s a great location, right on Main Street.”
In the meantime, the current tenants don’t know what is happening, whether they might be able to move into the new building, or when they might be kicked out. Two have already left for new locations.
“We’re kind of holding our breath to see when the eviction notices come and when the tractors show up,” said one of the business owners, who requested anonymity. “We’re consignment row. Everyone’s up in arms that now, all of a sudden, we’re kind of tossed on the street.”
The owner acknowledged that the current building is “an eyesore and it should come down,” and described the planned new building as “beautiful.” Still, the owner said, “the way they handled it kind of stinks.”