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Old Lockport Walmart likely to be subdivided, Smith says

LOCKPORT – The original Lockport Walmart has been vacant since the retail giant opened its new Lockport center in January, but Supervisor Marc R. Smith said Monday that there are ideas afoot for its reuse.

Smith said after a meeting on the future of the Transit North corridor, as the town has dubbed the Route 78 commercial strip, that the owner of the vacant store, DDR Corp. of Cleveland, is likely to seek multiple tenants for the 118,000-square-foot store.

“There aren’t many businesses that can adopt that big a footprint,” Smith said.

DDR’s focus for the space is likely to be clothing, Smith said during the meeting Monday night in Town Hall. He noted that DDR has brought several clothing stores to space alongside the Tops Market on South Transit Road, just south of the vacant Walmart. It’s an area that formerly was dominated by a now-closed Sears Hardware store.

Smith said of DDR, “That particular building owner is working on creating a synergy in clothing.”

In the past several months, TJ Maxx, Rue 21 and Shoe Dept. have opened in the strip plaza that shares a parking lot with Tops, while Maurices, another clothing retailer, moved there from the Home Depot plaza on the other side of South Transit Road, which is locally owned by Benderson Development.

Smith said of the reuse of the old Walmart, “There’s nothing imminent at this time.”

The notion of opening a multiscreen movie theater in the space, very popular with some Lockport residents, appears dead. Smith said he talked recently to a theater developer who told him, “Too many people at home have large-screen TVs.”

But the Lockport area has plenty of commercial possibilities, said David R. Kinyon, the Town of Lockport economic development director.

Smith wants to revive the concept of Transit North as a fairly unified design area. The retro architecture of the Walmart supercenter was a step in that direction. Kinyon said, “It was a very extended negotiation to make that Walmart facade look unlike any other Walmart facade you’ve ever seen.”

The NY Beer Project, soon to begin construction of a microbrewery and restaurant at the southern edge of town, also plans to carry out that theme.

Pendleton, which controls the west side of South Transit Road south of Route 93, is changing its tune on development, according to Joseph Kania, a member of its Planning Board.

“The town is now moving in a more business-friendly direction. They no longer want to be isolated,” Kania said.