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New plans for old Shoe Depot

Developer wants to bring a Berkshire Bank, commercial space, to site of former store

If all goes well for the developer, the site of the former Saratoga Shoe Depot in Delmar won't stand vacant forever.

Columbia Development is pitching to the Town of Bethlehem a plan to level the existing Delaware Avenue structure to make way for a Berkshire Bank branch and other commercial space. Their preliminary plans, which were presented to the town at a Thursday, Sept. 16, meeting of the Design Planning Committee, call for a 5,000-square-foot building, half of which would be occupied by the bank with the remainder split by two other businesses.

The project would also feature an expanded parking lot and a series of drive thru lanes for teller and ATM access. A fence and landscaping would help obscure the site from Delaware Avenue traffic. Vehicle access would be via Groesbeck Place

The Shoe Depot closed in late February, with owner Frank Panza citing a lack of funding to keep his inventory levels up at that location. He's since consolidated to his larger store in Saratoga Springs.

The developer doesn't have any businesses lined up to occupy the rest of the building, and Joe Nicolla of Columbia Development said they probably won't start looking until the design process is further underway.

This is a good market. We're going to be able to find people to come out here, he said.

The project wouldn't be economically viable with just a bank, he continued, so building a smaller structure without other businesses would not be an option.

The DPC"a largely informal group of town officials that review projects in their early stages"was most concerned about the placement of the building itself. The applicant wishes to have the building sit right in the middle of the parking lot, with traffic flowing around it to a set of drive thru lanes on the north side.

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