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Buffalo planners approve new Checkers, parking lot

The Buffalo Planning Board on Tuesday approved a proposal for a new 945-square-foot Checkers hamburger restaurant, with a drive-thru and a walk-up window, in the front parking lot of the Regal Cinemas Elmwood Center 16 at 2001 Elmwood Ave.

The new building would be on Elmwood Avenue, to the right of the plaza entrance and across from AutoZone. The movie theater is in the rear, to the left, while Best Fitness is directly in back.

The project could handle eight cars lined up at the window but “we have quite a few parking spaces” in the lot, said architect Chris Wood of Carmina Wood Morris. Officials hope to start construction by end of summer.

This would be the fifth Western New York restaurant for Tampa, Fla.-based Checkers Drive-In Restaurants, but only the second for franchisee UCG Ventures LLC of West Seneca, which also owns one at 2563 Union Road, at Losson Road. UCG Operations Manager Gail Gentry said her firm hopes to do a total of five in the area, but “I’m too old to do more than that.”

Another Checkers at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport and two at the Pembroke and Seneca travel plazas on the New York State Thruway in Corfu and Victor are operated by Delaware North.

Planners also gave the OK to Savarino Companies’ request to convert a vacant, grassy lot at 476 Seneca St. into a 65-car parking lot to support the new commercial tenants at nearby 500 Seneca. That’s the former F.N. Burt manufacturing facility that Savarino and Frontier Group are spending $38 million to convert into a mixed-use commercial and residential building, with 150,000 square feet of office space and 110 apartments.

At the request of board members, Savarino agreed to extend a fence, use more dense landscaping and cut a pedestrian path from the parking lot to the sidewalk at Myrtle and Spring streets. The Planning Board also approved 10 dark black ground signs for 500 Seneca, including three that will be illuminated.