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Wal-Mart plans supercenter in Amherst Sheridan-North Bailey site would replace smaller store on Niagara Falls Boulevard

Wal-Mart plans to build a supercenter in a shopping plaza off Sheridan Drive at North Bailey Avenue in Amherst that would replace a smaller Wal-Mart on Niagara Falls Boulevard north of the Youngmann Highway.

Wal-Mart has filed a site plan for a store at 3242 Sheridan Drive consisting of nearly 192,000 square feet, said Ellen Kost, associate planner with the Town of Amherst. The site was formerly anchored by an Ames department store.

Philip Serghini, Wal-Mart's senior manager for public affairs, said he could not predict when the supercenter would open, but he said the approvals process with a municipality typically takes about a year to complete.

The supercenter's proposed site is a mostly vacant shopping plaza owned by Benderson Development. Ames, which was the main tenant, shut down its 18 area stores in 2002, the year after the company filed for bankruptcy.

A Wal-Mart supercenter contains a full-scale grocery store, in addition to the usual features of a Wal-Mart. "We've heard time and again from our customers that they like the convenience of a one-stop shopping facility," Serghini said.

The region thus far has two such supercenters: on Transit Road in Clarence, where an existing Wal-Mart was expanded, and in Springville. Wal-Mart is pursuing plans for several others in Buffalo Niagara.

The grocery store component creates more competition for the region's food retailers, which are led in market share by Tops Markets and Wegmans. Those two chains have stores across from each other on Maple Road, about three quarters of a mile from the proposed Wal-Mart supercenter.

The Sheridan Drive site has long been speculated as a site for a Wal-Mart supercenter. Eric Recoon, a Benderson executive, said the new project harkens to the shopping plaza's origins, when the site contained a Tops Markets store and a Hills department store. The new project would combine a grocery store and discount store under one roof. Benderson will own the building and lease it to Wal-Mart.

Linens N' Things and DSW Shoe Warehouse, which used to fill space at the front of the property, moved to Benderson's Maple Crossings retail plaza on Maple Road in 2005, helping clear the way for new development.

A few month-to-month and short-term tenants remain in the portion of the plaza connected to the former Ames. Recoon said Benderson has not actively sought new tenants while it was pursuing the Wal-Mart supercenter project.

"We're hopeful that everyone will be supportive of this project, given what is there today," Recoon said.

The new site, in the heavily traveled Sheridan-Bailey area, will allow Wal-Mart to tap into a population base that its store north of the Youngmann currently misses out on, Recoon said. The Niagara Falls Boulevard store is about 2.5 miles from the proposed new site.

Kost said the Sheridan Drive property does not need to be rezoned in order for a Wal-Mart supercenter to be built there. The project will go before the town planning board and then be subjected to reviews by governmental agencies.

The existing Wal-Mart at 2055 Niagara Falls Blvd. wouldn't close until the new supercenter is set to open, Serghini said.

e-mail: mglynn@buffnews.com

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