Bedford plaza renovation plannedBy SUSAN CLARK
Union Leader Correspondent
September 18. 2013 9:36PM
BEDFORD — The Route 101 Plaza, home to Harvest Market, Bedford Pharmacy, Bedford Cleaners and Aubuchon Hardware, will be refurbished with green space and will include a new, free-standing bank.
The owners of 209 Route 101 Realty were granted a variance from the Zoning Board of Adjustment on Sept. 17, to build a free-standing bank at the shopping plaza on Route 101 and Wallace Road. The proposed bank will be located on the southwest corner of the property.
According to the plan, the 40-year-old plaza will be modernized with landscaped islands and new, modern exterior lighting. Steven Keach, of Keach-Nordsrom Associates and the applicant's engineer, called the circa-1970s lighting, "Definitely not dark-sky friendly."
The property is comprised of 11.43 acres in a mixed-use zone of commercial, residential and agricultural, with a 27,000-square-foot building with existing tenants.
He said the plan includes renovating the parking area to prevent cross-through traffic and bringing some order for the convenience of pedestrians, traffic and the business tenants.
"Part of the proposal and rejuvenating is the merchants that are in the area have seen some stress in recent years because of competition that has popped up in and around the vicinity," Keach told the members of the ZBA. "The idea is to make some good solid reinvestment in this property, which is a signature property on this stretch so we don't end up like the old Shaw's in Merrimack in the gateway of Bedford center."
Speaking as a resident and neighbor to the plaza, Town Councilor Jim Scanlon said renovating the Route 101 Plaza will be in the greater interest of residents as it will increase property values and add shopping convenience.
"It will increase the tax revenue to the town as well. Right now, it's about $50,000 and will probably go up 10 percent to $60,000," he said. "Any time more public revenue comes into the tax coffers, it's good for me personally."
He said the public interest is served whenever the community is improved.
"I am worried that the 40-year-old, weather-beatened property cannot stay as it is now. If we do not attempt to improve it, it will wither and die."
He said the plaza has already lost one of two anchors and it can't afford to lose another business, as Dunkin' Donuts recently moved to the shopping area at the intersection of Routes 101 and 114. The remaining anchor in the plaza, Harvest Market, is vital to the town, he said.
"If we lose another anchor business in that property, you can kiss that property goodbye," Scanlon said.
In granting the variance, the ZBA approved a 40-foot front yard at Wallace Road and 45 feet at Route 101, where a minimum of 60 feet is required by the town at each location. The ZBA denied the application on May 21, prompting the applicant to make design changes to address board members' objections to the plan.
The board voted to approve the variance saying the applicant met the town's list of criteria.
"The project will improve the health, safety and welfare of the area," said ZBA Chairman Eric Bernard.
Resident Bill Greiner, one of the applicants, said right now there is no definite tenant scheduled for the bank.
Keach said more detailed work on the project needs to be done before the final site plan goes before the Planning Board for approval. He hopes to submit the application to the board in 30 to 45 days.