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More than a mile of new sidewalks will be installed as part of a $70 million expansion at the Walden Galleria approved this week by the Cheektowaga Town Board.

The project, scheduled to start this spring, will add about 650,000 square feet of floor space, in a new three-level building, to what -- at 1.5 million square feet -- is already Western New York's largest shopping mall.

Plans show the top floor of the addition devoted to entertainment venues, including an 18-screen movie theater and restaurants. Two five-level parking ramps will be linked to the mall by walkways and bridges.

But a lesser-known component of the expansion is the ribbon of sidewalk that will stretch from Galleria Drive and Union Road east of the mall to the mall's main entrance on Walden Avenue near the Target Plaza, a distance of about 4,500 feet.

Another 500 feet of sidewalk will be built along Walden at the mall entrance, together with 300 feet along the mall's east loop road, said town zoning official Daniel Ulatowski.

Meanwhile, the project's new emphasis on covered parking will put about 55 percent of the Galleria's 9,900 parking spaces in ramps, with the expansion accounting for about 2,800 of those spaces. To put that number in perspective, a large shopping plaza planned in Lancaster will park about 1,400 cars.

Plans also show a new and remodeled Sears department store.

Cheektowaga and the Pyramid Cos. of Syracuse, owners of the Galleria, agreed on a number of conditions in order for the project to approved, including extensive traffic and landscaping improvements.

For example, Galleria Drive will be expanded to six lanes where it meets Union on the east side of the mall. For outbound traffic, there will be two left-turn lanes, a through lane and a right-turn lane. There will also be two traffic lanes on Galleria Drive headed toward the mall from Union, officials said.

Another traffic improvement will see a fifth lane for left turns built on Galleria Drive, between Union and the mall's east loop road.

The project will also reduce the number of driveway openings on Galleria Drive, with the U.S. Postal Service branch and Starbucks Coffee among those locations to be served by an interior service road connecting to the east loop road.

"The Town Board . . . must order the closing of the driveways at the west end of the U.S. Post Office, the driveway near Starbucks and the driveway to the west of Citibank" so that Pyramid Development can make the connections to the mall loop road, according to the measure approved unanimously Monday by the Town Board.

Council Member Thomas M. Johnson Jr., the board's development chief, said another key feature of the project will involve extensive landscaping and the construction of earthen berms in the nearby Nokomis Park neighborhood.

The Galleria expansion is scheduled to be finished next year.

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