A potential pad building in the middle of the Nesconset Shopping Center parking lot has some PJS community members agitated, but property owners say such an addition will help keep the shops viable long-term.
The shopping center, located along Route 347 slightly west of Terryville Road, is owned by Brixmor Property Group, a national retail property corporation. The proposed pad would include a 7,000-square-foot, single-story island that would house two separate storefronts.
Brixmor representatives said the two fronts would house a dentist office and a bank, respectively. Plans say the Bethpage Federal Credit Union, currently located at the far western end of the shopping center, would move to the building that would include a drive-through. Reps added they are in talks with Aspen Dental, which has offices in upstate New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, for the other space. Town of Brookhaven zoning for the property would remain the same, retail J-2.
Nicholas Andreadis, the regional vice president of leasing for Brixmor’s north region, said Bethpage Federal Credit Union would likely vacate the shopping center if it isn’t able to secure a drive-through.
At a Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic meeting Feb. 25, representatives of Brixmor and its hired architects came to speak on the proposed addition.
Some residents had concerns with the location of the pad, especially in how it effectively bisects the parking lot. The lot has three entrances from Nesonset Highway, and the middlemost one would be directly in front of the proposed storefront. A central lane running through the parking lot currently allows drivers to go back and forth parallel to the highway, but plans show the lane would be cut off just before the middle entrance. Cars would have to stop and either go around the pad or stop at several stop signs. Company representatives said this was at the request of the town to slow down traffic through that area.
The changes would reduce the total number of stalls by 25 from 599 to 574.
The shopping center is currently full of stores including a Dollar Tree, Five Guys burgers and fries and Carnival Restaurant & Pizzeria. There is only one vacant location. On Saturday, a new art studio One River School of Art & Design opened its doors at the shopping center.
Some residents complained they have used the central lane to bypass having to go onto Route 347 and skip the confusing and often dangerous intersection between the highway and Norwood Avenue. Sal Pitti, the civic president, said taking such shortcuts is, in itself, unsafe.
“That’s where a lot of the problems start when people try to come in and out of the parking lot,” Pitti said.
Will Zieman, 6th Precinct COPE officer, also spoke to the problems of using that parking lot as a cut through.
“Is it reasonable to predict what people are going to do off 347?” he said. “It’s very hard for you, as a driver, to predict what another vehicle will do coming out of that shopping center.”
Though, as Port Jeff Station resident Jennifer Simoes put it, even being forced to drive in front of the storefronts because of the new pad is itself dangerous for pedestrians.
“I don’t want to go in front of the storefronts either, because I don’t want to hit anyone who’s coming out with their pizza,” she said. “I’m not going to want to go in there, and there’s another Dollar Tree and Marshalls in the
Pitti agreed the larger issue comes from increased pedestrian traffic in an often busy parking lot.
Charlie McAteer, the civic’s recording secretary, also suggested the company look at how pedestrians were to get from the pad building to the main shopping center.
“What I’m seeing where you’re walking right now, you’re going to end at a walkway and you’re into striped parking, and you will have to walk between parked cars,” he said. “There will be people who want to go to the bank and then go eat.”
Reuben Twersky, a project director for Brixmor, said people will often ignore walkways and crosswalks and routes even if they were created.
“We would like to do it in as safe a manner as possible,” he said.
The area along Route 347 has been a particular hotbed of issues with both vehicle and pedestrian traffic. Last year, 17-year-old Jenna Perez, an employee at Five Guys, was killed in a hit-and-run while crossing Nesconset Highway outside a crosswalk.
In addition to the changes in parking lot design, Brixmor plans to reduce the height of lights to 20 feet and add 19,000 square feet of landscaping to the front of the property bordering Nesconset Highway.
The company is also looking to redo and move the sign displaying the names stores within. Designs show the proposed sign going 26 1/2 feet up from the ground on new brick pylons.
Philip Butler, an attorney from Hauppauge-based Farrell Fritz, said the company’s next steps are to submit final comments to the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals by March 11. After the zoning board of appeals gives approval for variances, then the company will be back in front of the Planning Board to look at traffic and parking. The company is also awaiting on New York State Department of Transportation on a traffic study before it can move fully ahead.