FRIENDLYS

The former Friendly's restaurant on Housatonic Street in Lee, which closed in October 2019, could soon be the site of a Starbucks coffee shop. 

LEE — Starbucks is likely coming to Lee.

The world’s largest coffee house chain, known for its lattes, espressos and trademark Frappuccinos, could land in the former Friendly’s restaurant on Housatonic Street. The highly visible location is close to the New England-based Dunkin’ shop on Housatonic street, just off Exit 2 of the Massachusetts Turnpike.

The Charles River Realty Group of West Roxbury outside Boston proposes to renovate the existing building and install a drive-thru window and maintain the walk-up window Friendly’s had, according Casey Birch of Solli Engineering of Monroe, Conn. and Boston.

The Lee Friendly’s, the county’s first, shuttered in October 2019 as part of the regional restaurant chain’s list of closings due to financial trouble.

Birch unveiled the Starbucks’ site plan to the Lee Planning Board on Monday night and will return on Feb. 8 seeking a special permit for the drive-thru.

“I’m excited to really see something done on this property,” said board Chairman Matt Carlino.

The board was surprised to hear Birch say his client wants to bring Starbucks to the town.

“That news will spread fast around here,” Carlino noted.

If the board approves the site plan and drive-thru, the developer could begin work in April, Birch said, but he gave no timetable for when the coffee shop will open.

The Lee site would be only the second standalone Starbucks shop in Berkshire County. Starbucks has an existing shop in Berkshire Crossing off Hubbard Avenue in Pittsfield; it also has locations inside Barnes & Noble and Market 32, both also in the shopping complex.

Birch says the drive-thru will be at the rear of the building, designed to allow up to 13 vehicles to wait in line without spilling out onto Housatonic Street, one of the town’s busiest road. The developer will use the single entrance/exit to handle customers arriving and departing the premises.

The consulting engineer says parking will be reduced from the current 54 spaces to 37. The site will have more landscaping and screening than exists, including a new stockade fence to shield the property from its neighbors and new, less impactful outdoor light.

“This is one of the better site plans we’ve seen in a while,” said board member Buck Donovan.

As for traffic impact, the developer anticipates an average of 95 car trips during the weekday morning drive time and double that figure for midmorning on Saturday — often the busiest time for a well-located coffee shop.

Dick Lindsay can be reached at rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com