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Vista gets another victory

Date floated for groundbreaking as retail buildings approved

Another part of the Vista Technology Park project got the stamp of approval tonight from the Bethlehem Planning Board, and for the first time a tentative date was floated for a groundbreaking on the long-awaited and massive project: Thursday, Sept. 29.

That's if everything goes according to plan and bonds arranged through the Bethlehem Industrial Development Agency come through and are issued at a meeting the day before. Then builder BBL Construction could get started on the 3/4-mile road into the tech park.

The Planning Board unanimously gave conditional approval to the first big phase of buildings at Vista this evening, signing off on four buildings with definite tenants and conditionally approving three others. The developer will have to return to the board with final exterior plans for those last three once tenants are cemented.

Columbia Development's Joe Nicolla wouldn't name any of those tenants, but two banks, a supermarket and an office building were given the okay.

"I think that it would be appropriate for the tenants to be the ones to make the announcements of who they are," Nicolla said.

The supermarket tenant is very likely a Shoprite, however--developers all but confirmed it during a summer of financing discussions and the chain is about to open a store in Niskayuna.

Architects explained they went with "residential" looks for the initial Vista buildings, selecting earth tones in stone and rock and eschewing glass and steel. There was a lot of discussion on the Planning Board about how pedestrians will be able to get around the retail portion of the park, though.

Developers said it's going to be tough to point people to sidewalks that would safely take them to other pads of businesses. Planning Board member Nicholas Behuniak said encouraging walking is a necessity.

"I do think that people use [sidewalks] and I think they have great value," he said.

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