Panera Bread and several stores to replace Smiles Entertainment Center

A new shopping center with a Panera Bread restaurant, a Sleep Number store, and a Verizon store are among the businesses that will replace the former Smiles Entertainment Center at 1595-1645 Boston Post Road.

The Planning and Zoning Board (P&Z) unanimously approved the project at its July 1 public hearing, with zoning permits contingent on the developer receiving state and federal approvals. No one from the public commented on the project.

City Planner David B. Sulkis said, “It’s a nice project,” commenting that city staff worked closely with the applicant to guide the project, which needed a special permit, coastal area site plan review, and site plan review.

The project received unanimous approval of the Inland-Wetlands Agency on Jan. 22, 2014.

Attorney John Knuff, representing the applicant, C&G Milford, said the shopping center would have retail space in three buildings on the 7.5-acre parcel.

“This is one more piece of the puzzle in the redevelopment of the Boston Post Road [from the I-95 interchange at Exit 39 to the Orange border,” said Knuff. “This project elevates the quality appearance of new development in this area.”

Knuff said the property would be connected to the adjacent Chase Bank property to the north, allowing motorists easier and safer access using the traffic light at that location. Tumble Brook borders the property on the south, so that blocks any connection to that adjacent parcel.

The project would improve the environment in several ways, said Knuff, including the fact that 14,000 sq. ft. of impervious surface will be removed, part of which will create a 25 ft. buffer along the Indian River, which runs along the rear of the property. He said 450 sq. ft. out of 1.3 acres of wetlands would be disturbed.

“My client has declined to maximize the site,” said Knuff, saying that the project’s 10,000 sq. ft. of retail space per acre “is far below any other retail area in the city.”

Knuff said the “exceedingly robust landscape plan” would have 865 new plantings, which includes 104 new trees.

According to Knuff, the project’s lighting plan calls for zero foot candles of light at the property line, and zero foot candles of light beyond the 25 ft. buffer zone to the Indian River, which benefits the people living on adjacent Roses Mill Road.

Project Engineer Raymond Paier said the existing buildings would be demolished, and the batting cages and mini-golf course would be removed. The main building would be a two-story 37,838 sq. ft. building with parking underneath it. The second building would be 5,600 sq. ft. The third building would be 4,420 sq. ft. with a drive-thru and a 390 sq. ft. patio that will house Panera Bread.

Paier said there would be three driveways into the property. One would be designated as in-bound only for the Panera Bread drive-thru. He repeated what Knuff said about the access to the traffic signal on the Chase Bank property would increase safety. Paier said the project would have “good pedestrian connections” with walkways to all buildings and to the sidewalk along the road.

The southeast corner of the site is in the coastal area zone and a portion falls within the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) flood zone, requiring both state and federal approvals, which are pending, said Paier.

Architect Raymond Oliver said the buildings would have a unified concept with red brick combined with sandstone panels. Oliver said Verizon would be the tenant in the second building.

Knuff said the project does not have an anchor tenant for the largest building, but the developer has been having discussions with a number of potential clients.

The only concern raised by the P&Z came with regard to traffic flow. Board member Thomas Nichol expressed concern about having three driveways to the property, none of which had a traffic light, and he asked why there was not one driveway to enter and exit.

Knuff responded by saying that he expected people making a left turn from the property heading south on Rt. 1 would use the traffic light by Chase Bank. He said the main entrance into the site would have a dedicated left-turn lane. He said that another curb cut would have only an entrance in, and there would be an exit only heading north, which is a right turn.

Board member Edwin Mead asked Knuff if the Panera Bread drive-thru could have a sign directing them to use the exit at Panera Bread. Knuff said that suggestion could be incorporated into the project.

“The drive thru is what is propelling them [Panera Bread] to come to this location. This is part of their new rollout,” said Knuff.

Mead also asked if there could be a speed bumps installed by the crosswalk. Knuff said textured treatment could be added to the pavement.