AMHERST, N.Y. (WIVB) — The former Bon-Ton in the Northtown Plaza has sat vacant for years. It will be coming down to make way for a Whole Foods, the first in western New York. But in it’s wake are some questions and concerns from local retailers.
Anthony Scioli is the manager of My Tomato Pie, serving up slices in Northtown Plaza for 17 years.
Cioli hopes lunch rushes like what he saw Wednesday will only increase with the addition of Whole Foods.
“We’re excited for the change, increased traffic in the plaza,” Scioli said.
But with that excitement comes some questions.
“You can only pass so much on to your customers, and your customers are used to paying a certain amount for an item,” he said. “We don’t feel like an increased rent should be passed along to our customers. So that is a concern, it depends on what we get from the increase rent also.”
WS Development promises to pump $90 million in improvements to the plaza, including $15 million for Whole Foods.
They say they’re hopeful some tenants stay on board, despite increased rent.
“As Northtown evolves with this reinvestment and their business improves, we foresee some existing tenants remaining in the center, perhaps in their current location, but not necessarily, especially in cases where a particular tenant’s present day needs are better served by a new premises elsewhere in the property,” the company said in a statement. “ We understand that while some tenants will remain and grow with us as Northtown is rejuvenated, others may leave, but we believe that a vibrant and unique retail destination includes a mix of local and national tenants.”
But they’re also asking the town’s industrial development agency for help in the form of tax breaks.
James Allen, executive director of the Amherst Industrial Development Agency, said the company is asking for incentives during construction only, or a period of four years.
“Northtown plays a real big role in our strategy for redeveloping the town,” he said.
Any incentive would be dependant on whether the developer can bring unique retail draws people from 50 miles away.
“The only way we could do it is if we can make a finding, they were comfortable with, that this is a tourism destination center.” Allen said.
He also said any current shops may already have a place to go if they choose to leave Northtown.
“We really believe that some of the other strip losses in the area that have some vacancies are really going to benefit for that. So we think that everything is going to work out for everybody,” Allen said.
Any decision on a tax break would likely be made by July, Allen said.