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DEVELOPERS EYE NEW HOTEL WHILE AWAITING WORD ON RITE AID

Plans may be on hold for a Rite Aid at a vacant corner in the Village of Williamsville, but developers still are interested in forging ahead with the hotel proposed for the same lot.

Williamsville officials met this week with developer Carl P. Paladino and representatives from Benderson Development Co. so the developers could explain why their year-old proposal to build a Rite Aid and hotel at Main and Los Robles streets hasn't begun yet.

Developers confirmed the Rite Aid project is on hold while the financially troubled pharmacy chain re-evaluates plans to build new drugstores across the country, including the one in Williamsville.

It's uncertain when -- or if, for that matter -- corporate officials will give the go-ahead for the Williamsville Rite Aid.

But developers may find a way to build the new 68-room Williamsville Inn while they await a decision from Rite Aid.

Developers will take another look at the project costs and present to the village within the next few weeks a plan for constructing the hotel.

"We would like to get something going as soon as the weather breaks," Paladino said Tuesday.

But without the drugstore, the developers said, it will be hard to make the project work out financially for them.

"It's very difficult to build, in current market conditions, a stand-alone hotel," Paladino said. "You need help."

"The (hotel and drugstore) go hand in hand," added Anthony J. Renaldo, attorney for the developers. "The land cost too much money for the hotel to exist by itself."

The old Williamsville Inn, as well as a dilapidated but historic building that once served as an icehouse, were demolished last spring to make room for the two projects.

Little has been done since, and village officials are unhappy that a large, unappealing vacant lot remains along bustling Main Street.

Williamsville doesn't want to be caught in a situation currently facing Cheektowaga, where three buildings were demolished at the corner of Harlem Road and Cleveland Drive three years ago to make way for a Rite Aid that was never built.

Cheektowaga officials are considering using federal community block grant funds to dress up the Harlem-Cleveland lot, then recoup the costs when the lot is sold or developed.

Williamsville will ask developers to landscape the Main and Los Robles parcel if some construction doesn't start by June.

"We talked about the fact that if there is nothing happening by Memorial Day then we're going to expect them to spruce it up a bit and put in some plantings," said Williamsville Mayor Basil J. Piazza.

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