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Motorists on Galleria Drive in Cheektowaga may not have to look much longer at the mammoth and long-vacant Ernst Steel warehouse.

Benderson Development Co. Inc. has filed plans with Cheektowaga officials for the construction of a 117,000-square-foot retail facility on the 10-acre site. Tenants at the site have not been identified.

Before construction can begin, Benderson must demolish the hulking, black warehouse and clean up industrial waste at the site. The cleanup primarily involves the removal of heavy metals contained in paint sludge covering the floor of the facility.

Thomas Adamczak, a Cheektowaga building inspector, said Benderson had already stripped the interior of the facility of wiring and duct work, leaving a hollow shell. The state Department of Environmental Conservation has issued a consent order to the developer for the cleanup operation, Adamczak said.

Besides the 117,000-square-foot retail store, Benderson's plans call for a 7,000-square-foot store or restaurant toward the front of the property along Walden Avenue.

Traffic is likely to be a key concern for Cheektowaga officials and representatives of the state Thruway Authority.

The site is next to Galleria Drive on the north side of Walden Avenue, across the street from the just opened Hampton Inn, another Benderson project. The project lies just west of the Thruway with the Walden Galleria mall on the other side of the state highway.

Motorists enter Galleria Drive from a Thruway off-ramp. Traffic engineers must devise a way to allow motorists to reach the proposed retail facility without creating a traffic hazard, according to Adamczak.

Jim Smith of EMS Consulting is completing a traffic study for the project, which will be submitted to the state Department of Transportation and Thruway Authority, among other agencies for review. The agencies have 30 days to comment on the project.

Cheektowaga officials have asked the developers to consider constructing a berm and providing landscaping along the north property line to screen the retail store from homes located across an abandoned railroad right of way.

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