More of Vista comes to town planners

Developers hope to have retail component finished in early 2012

The Vista Technology Campus continues to take shape.

The Town of Bethlehem Planning Board on Tuesday, March 1, saw plans for the first group of buildings that will be erected at the sprawling Slingerlands development. These will be primarily retail establishments near the entrance to the park, which will likely lead planners to give the buildings designs a thorough looking over.

This is what most people are going to see as they drive by to and from work every day, town Director of Economic Development and Planning Michael Morelli advised the board.

This phase of the project would be started as soon as the construction of Vista Boulevard allows. From there, buildout of the eight buildings in this phase of construction would vary, but should go quickly.

"We'd love to say that we're going to break ground immediately and have those buildings built by the end of the year," said builder BBL Construction Vice President Jonathan deForest. "That would be the goal. First quarter of 2012 could be a reality."

Not all of the retail tenants have been identified, but Vista developers have said a ShopRite grocery store would be the biggest one. Also slated for storefronts are CVS, SEFCU and Berkshire Bank. A yet-to-be-named restaurant has a standalone location that will likely feature outdoor dining.

There will also be office space going up while the way is paved for retail, including on the second floor of one building over shops. The project is cleared by the town to only be 20 percent retail, based on square footage, but this construction will bring developers right up to the 50/50 split that is the maximum allowed at any stage of development.

Though the plans for this phase of construction are conceptual, members of the Planning Board singled out the walkways that will weave through the park. Providing good pedestrian access has long been a goal. Member Nicholas Behuniak referenced the Price Chopper Plaza just across the street from the site, saying it can be tough to get to those stores on foot.

"You get to the bank, and then it gets a little hairy," he said.

There was also talk of breaking up the parking lots to avoid creating a vast wash of asphalt.

Developers also presented an initial design for the campus' entrance sign on Route 85. It's designed to be somewhat minimalist " the intent is to not have it too busy, said deForest.

"This was supposed to be not and opportunity to advertise...but to be more of a destination," he said.

Once motorists or pedestrians get inside the park, additional signage would direct them to shops and businesses.""

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