The City of Delaware continues to deal with issues related to the vacant Buehler’s Fresh Foods since the grocery store vacated the 800 W. Central Ave. location more than a year ago.
“We are currently working with two possible tenants that may take up the entire available space for the Buehler’s building, but do not have anything completed as of yet,” said Sean Hughes, the city’s economic development director, in an email. “One of the two is very close to being complete.”
The vacancy of the 70,000-square-foot structure created some uncertainty for the Delaware Planning Commission at its meeting last week.
All five commission members present at the meeting approved Jackson Real Estate and Development’s final development plan to construct a 6,715-square-foot building located on a lot in front of the former grocery store and next door to the Panera Bread at 750 W. Central Ave. Delaware City Council will have the final say.
The building will have room for four prospective tenants, including a dentist’s office and First Commonwealth Bank, which will relocate from its location at the vacant grocery store.
“I believe that corridor is in transition right now especially with the unknown of Buehler’s,” said Randall Jackson, president of Jackson Real Estate and Development.
Council approved a final development plan in August 2013 for the construction of up to three buildings on separate lots. Panera Bread constructed the first building in 2014 with Jackson’s building to be the second. He also has the first right of refusal for the third lot.
Commission member Jim Halter expressed concerns about changes to road improvements that Jackson would have been responsible for based on the plan council approved in 2013.
Originally, the developer was required to widen Central Avenue and construct a turn lane for eastbound traffic. But because of Buehler’s closing in February 2016, city staff recommended removing that requirement for the developer because traffic was expected to be minimal even if the former grocery store was filled.
City records indicate the third lot’s developer would be responsible for those improvements, but the second lot developer would contribute $50,000 to supplement those costs.
“Should something go in (the Buehler’s building) that does create traffic, then we’ve just made a mistake,” Halter said. “That concerns me. That really does.”
He didn’t think it would be fair if taxpayers eventually would have to pay for the turn lane.
Planning and Community Development Director Dave Efland said the turn lane wouldn’t solve all the traffic issues on the road and that was were a combination of ways to pay for the turn lane in the future.
“If you put the full financial burden of doing that relatively small left turn lane … on this developer than he’s just not going to do this development. He just can’t bear that costs,” said Efland.
In other business, the commission approved a new McDonald’s building at 2091 U.S. 23 N. The estimated 3,915-square-foot fast food chain will replace the original McDonald’s built in 1985. In 2013, McDonald’s received approval for a permit and combined preliminary and final development plan for exterior renovations of the building. But the changes never happened.
The project is considered a “pretty significant upgrade” in terms of the site’s configuration, circulation and aesthetics, Efland said.
The new McDonald’s will have 53 parking spaces and two drive-through lanes. The restaurant would be limited to a right turn-in only access from U.S. 23 along with two full movement curbs from the private access road between the building and the Wendy’s, where a traffic signal is located.
McDonald’s officials would like to break ground before the end of the year, said Joe Smiley, president of Land Strategies, said during the meeting. He was accompanied by Rod Boester, the location’s franchise owner. Smiley said it could take 90 to 120 days to complete the project.
Gazette reporter Brandon Klein can be reached by email or on Twitter at @brandoneklein.