Saranac Lake Tops upgrade may begin in March

These sketches compare the Tops Market at 56 Church St.’s current look, at top, with the look of its proposed renovation, at bottom.

SARANAC LAKE — Renovation of the Tops supermarket on Church Street is expected to begin next month.

The Western New York-based supermarket chain and the owner of the 56 Church St. property passed their site plan for renovation and landscaping at this location to the village Development Board Tuesday night.

“Tops is planning interior and exterior renovations of their store,” Corey Auerbach, a zoning lawyer with Barclay Damon, the firm representing Saranac Lake Center, which owns the property, and Tops, the lessee.

Auerbach said this renovation is one of the first projects Tops is undertaking since emerging from bankruptcy in the November 2018. In the beginning of last year, the chain announced bankruptcy and closed 10 locations across the Northeast. The Tops on Lake Flower Avenue was one of those.

“Tops has committed about $835,000 to this project,” Auerbach said, “for not only streetscape improvements and exterior facade improvements, but also the interior changes of the store to improve energy efficiency, which will include new appliances and LED lighting, but also to just make it a more attractive experience for residents of the village and visitors — to give it what Tops calls a more Adirondack feel.”

Auerbach said interior renovations will start first and should take about three months, beginning in March. Exterior work will require a building permit and further village approvals, but Auerbach said construction should start in late 2019, to be finished in the spring 2020.

The largest change would be the new entrance at the front of the store and a peaked facade. On the east side of the building, along the Saranac River and River Walk, the plan is to enclose the loading docks, plant “arborvitae” evergreen trees as screening for the dumpster and compactor, and remove the metal container currently sitting there.

The middle curb cut along Church Street will be removed, making space for two 7-foot-wide by 20-foot-long planters, along with additional landscaping on the pylon sign. Three entrances to the parking lot will remain: one from Bloomingdale Avenue and one on either side of the lot on Church Street.

The board declined requiring the property owner to merge the land parcels as a condition for approval, a move that Code Enforcement Officer Paul Blaine said the board has been consistent in asking. However, since Tops does not own the property, and one of the two parcels is only for parking, members of the board decided not to make merging the lots a condition for the project to move forward.

The board required that Tops put up a sign on the north side of its building that faces the Bloomingdale Avenue entrance.

“Tops thinks that this investment will be in keeping with other improvements that are occurring throughout the village,” Auerbach said. “I think we can all agree this building could use the lift. And they are pleased to remain in the village of Saranac Lake, and have expressed a commitment to do that through this project.”

To assist with funding these renovations, Saranac Lake Center is sponsoring a project proposal for a piece of a $9.7 million state Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant package. The village’s Local Planning Committee and consulting team are reviewing the proposal to decide whether it should be included. The next LPC meeting is on Feb. 14 from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Harrietstown Town Hall, 39 Main St.