The uncertain future of the former Buehler’s Fresh Foods building on Delaware’s west side will not stop a developer from moving ahead with a nearby commercial project.
The city’s planning commission earlier this month approved Jackson Real Estate and Development’s final development plan to build a 6,715-square-foot office and retail building south of the former grocery store. The new building would sit on about 1.2 acres west of Panera Bread off West Central Avenue.
According to city records, the First Commonwealth Bank branch now in the Buehler’s complex, along with a dentist’s office, would be among the potential tenants of the new building. Although Buehler’s closed its West Central Avenue location in February 2016, the bank and an Ace Hardware store in the complex remained open.
Buehler’s originally planned to own the outlots south of the store and lease them to tenants. The city’s initial approval for the outlots’ development required a left-turn lane to be built for eastbound traffic at a relocated entrance drive ahead of the second new building’s opening.
Although the proposed building would be the second south of Buehler’s – following Panera Bread – the city no longer is requiring the turn lane’s construction. With Buehler’s closed, the city will allow the developer instead to make a $50,000 contribution toward the cost of the improvement, at an estimated cost of $220,000.
David Efland, Delaware’s planning and community-development director, called the now-closed grocery store “the significant traffic generator on the site.”
Commission member James Halter said the change in requirements concerned him. He said a new tenant in the Buehler’s building could lead to a spike in traffic without needed improvements in place.
“We don’t know what’s going to go in there,” he said. “If something should go in there that does create traffic, we’ve just made a mistake.”
Efland said it’s possible a future tenant of the Buehler’s building would lead to far fewer trips than the grocery store did.
“As of right now, there’s a use that’s contemplating going in that building, which would be a good use but generate far less traffic than Buehler’s,” he said.
Efland said future development or redevelopment efforts at and around the Buehler’s store also could lead to more funding for the turn lane.
Randall Jackson, president of Jackson Real Estate and Development, said he’s “totally supportive” of the proposed improvement to West Central Avenue. He said he does not think he should bear the entire financial burden of the project.
“I think it should be on a cost-share basis with other property owners,” he said.
Jackson said he thinks his project will benefit the city and other West Central Avenue businesses.
“We think it’s going to bring tremendous value to that corridor,” he said. “I believe that corridor is in transition right now, especially with the unknown of Buehler’s.”