After six years of planning and forty different plans, work is beginning at the Baytowne Plaza in Penfield.
The Penfield Town Board Wednesday approved to rezone land around the plaza. Thursday morning, construction crews began knocking down the back end of the former Tops building.
Developer John DiMarco says they will create a Street of Shops at the plaza, with pedestrian- friendly walkways surrounded by stores and restaurants.
The rezoning also clears the way for a new Super Walmart. DiMarco still needs town board approval for that store to be built. If that goes through, the current store would be leased out to other retailers. Part of the new plans will include a 400-foot buffer zone for neighbors.
DiMarco said they've spent years in negotiations with nearby residents and town leaders to make the $40 million project a reality.
"The process of gaining consensus is always interesting. You hear a lot of positives, a lot of negatives, and you have to struggle through all that. But the good news is we’re here. The plaza and the community are strong, and it’s only going to get better. And there’s strong interest to be a part of the new Baytowne Plaza,” said DiMarco.
DiMarco said he has already received several calls from people who are interested in leasing space in the plaza. That's all good news for current tenants like Ed Dickinson, who owns the UPS store at Baytowne. He said while these plans were working their way through the system, other stores left the plaza in frustration.
"It's been very frustrating for the town to take that long to approve it. I can't imagine anyone in this economic environment that would turn down economic development in their town and the additional tax dollars that it generates," said Dickinson.
The first major part of the project is expected to be done by the summer. The rest of the work will happen within the next couple of years.
If everything goes through as planned, the plaza will go from 285,000 to 450,000 square feet.