LENOX — The developer of the Center at Lenox is proposing a major expansion of the retail complex housing Market 32/Price Chopper, CVS, Carr Hardware, Marshalls, Verizon Wireless and a Berkshire Bank branch.
A 39,000-square-foot, big-box retail store and a 6,000-square-foot restaurant would be constructed on vacant land adjoining Marshalls in the complex off Route 7/20 (489 Pittsfield Road), according to plans submitted to the Zoning Board of Appeals for a June 16 meeting.
If approved, construction is expected to begin this fall, concluding in fall 2022, said Melanie Carr, a manager for WS Asset Management, which operates the complex for MEC Lenox Associates Limited Partnership. The project cost is estimated at several million dollars.
The identities of the retail store chain and the restaurant operator remain undisclosed.
Under previous site plans and special permits approved by the ZBA in April 2019 and in previous years, the former Price Chopper store and adjacent spaces were targeted for new retailers as part of a $4 million buildout. Carr Hardware opened in December 2019, occupying about half the square footage available as part of the project. Six other retail spaces remain vacant.
The 2019 site plan, enthusiastically supported by the zoning board, also included potential construction of two new buildings on the vacant lot just north of Marshalls.
But, the buildout required specific retail interest, which failed to develop as big-box retailers downsized, followed by the COVID-19 pandemic and its accompanying economic recession. There had been reports that the Kohl’s department store chain was targeting the site. But, the deal in progress at that time did not materialize.
The point person for the Center at Lenox project, Jeff Curley, vice president of development for WS Asset Management, was on vacation Monday and could not be reached for comment. His real estate development company, based in Chestnut Hill just west of Boston, now is asking the zoning board for two special permit amendments and site plan approval to expand the shopping center, as well as a new parking layout adding 45 spaces to the 36-acre property just south of the Pittsfield city line.
That addition previously was approved in 2019, but the layout has been revised and it maintains the 15 percent landscaping within the parking lots.
In its application, WS states that the proposed development project aligns with adjacent commercial zoning and land-use patterns along the Route 7 & 20 corridor between Holmes Road and the Pittsfield line, and “meets the needs of the surrounding community. Incorporating additional commercial space at the Center at Lenox enhances a well-defined commercial and retail corridor.”
A memo from traffic engineer Ron Muller & Associates of Hopkinton states that traffic flow in and out of the complex would decrease, compared with the previously approved project plans, which took into account the effects of any potential restaurant traffic.
The decrease is attributed to a decline in traffic volume for retail shopping centers in recent years, based on updates to the Institute of Transportation Engineers Trip Generation Manual.
If the current expansion plan is approved, weekday trips in and out of the center would total 9,410, compared with the currently approved 10,660. On Saturdays, the current total of 14,300 trips would drop to 13,360.
A multiphase, $30 million expansion of the plaza began in 2010, leading to the July 2011 opening of the new $8 million Price Chopper and an adjoining Berkshire Bank branch, as well as the relocation and expansion of the existing CVS Pharmacy in January 2012.
A Lucky Nails salon is preparing to move into the former RadioShack space around the corner from Marshalls. The regional chain also has locations in Pittsfield, Lee and Great Barrington, and previously operated a salon on Housatonic Street in downtown Lenox.
Two long-vacant buildings adjacent to Marshalls were demolished to make way for the expected 36,000-square-foot Kohl’s department store before online shopping competition surged.
The original 2010 permits for the center allowed for total construction of up to 191,408 square feet of retail space. The current buildout proposal slightly increases the total, to 192,198 square feet.
“The proposed parking layout for the redevelopment will provide safe and adequate parking facilities for the additional retail options,” the traffic engineer’s memo also states. “The traffic improvements that are constructed for the project will easily accommodate the slightly larger development footprint.”