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CarMax gains approval for used car superstore in Amherst

The national auto retailer CarMax said it expects to begin construction next year on a used car superstore on the the site of a former hotel on Niagara Falls Boulevard in Amherst.

CarMax has received all of the approvals it needs from various levels of town government to build at the site of the former Holiday Inn Buffalo Amherst, 1881 Niagara Falls Blvd., just north of the Youngmann Memorial Highway interchange.

The company put that 6-acre property under contract in 2015 and purchased an adjoining, ½-acre parcel last year. The former hotel building remains on the site, and the store isn't likely to open for about two years, said CarMax spokeswoman Lindsey Duke.

"Amherst is an area we are really excited about and we look forward to joining the community there," Duke said in an email.

The company for the first time revealed some details on the scope of the planned dealership.

CarMax typically invests between $10 million and $25 million in a new dealership, and brings between 15 and 100 jobs to a store, depending on its size, Duke said. Each store has between 200 and 400 used cars on site, although customers can access the company's national inventory of 50,000 used cars through the CarMax website and mobile app.

The company is considering whether to adjust the layout of the plan to better accommodate the flow of deliveries, vehicle sales and customers on the site, said Jeffery D. Palumbo, a lawyer with Barclay Damon who represents the auto retailer.

"That's not unusual to take a look at it to see if tweaks need to be made to it," Palumbo said.

In Amherst, CarMax would construct an 18,824-square-foot complex that would include sales, service, car wash and presentation areas in multiple buildings on the 6.51-acre site. The Town Board approved rezoning the site and the Planning Board approved the site plan.

If the company makes minor changes to the site plan, the town Planning Department could approve them administratively, Palumbo said. However, if significant modifications are made, the Planning Board would have to approve the revised site plan, he said.

CarMax last May paid $325,000 for the ½-acre parcel at 1893 Niagara Falls Blvd., according to county real property records. Duke said she expects the sale of the larger parcel to close by March, once the seller of the property completes the demolition of the hotel on the site.

Crews are tearing down the hotel as we speak, Minesh Patel, chief financial officer of Visions Hotels LLC of Corning, the hotel's owner, told The Buffalo News on Wednesday. The hotel closed in November.

Once construction begins, she said it could take between nine and 12 months to finish. With a 2018 start to construction, that could push the store opening into 2019. Duke did say she was hesitant to put a firm timeline on the project, however, because it depends on the environmental condition of the site and other factors.

"CarMax definitely still has plans to open a store in Amherst, we are still just in the early stages of the site plan," she said.

CarMax has more than 160 stores in 39 states and is adding 13 to 16 stores in each of the next two years. Their closest dealership to Buffalo is in the Rochester suburb of Henrietta.

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