Traffic congestion on New Hampshire Street was a main concern that community members brought to Dillons representatives Monday evening in a meeting that revealed a plan for the new store on Massachusetts Street.
About 100 people attended the meeting at Central Junior High School, at which a plan was presented that would call for tearing down the current store at 1740 Mass., starting in early 2011, and building a new store that is 10,000 square feet larger. The project would last about 10 months.
Residents who live across New Hampshire Street from the current store say semi truck traffic is already an issue because the loading dock is on the back of the store and as many as 40 trucks make deliveries to the store throughout the night.
“They have to drive up and then back in,” said John Angermeier, who has lived behind the store for six years. “Imagine having that right across from your house, and when they idle, it shakes the windows.”
Among other concerns were parking for the store, which a developer said was currently a few spots short of city code. The design of the store was also an issue, and after seeing the plans some of those at the meeting said they thought the project needed to be improved to better match Lawrence’s downtown aesthetics.
“If this is to be abandoned in 25 years, what will become of it?” said Craig Patterson, an architect who has lived in Lawrence since 1967. “We don’t see what is said to be really invested in that design.”
Dillons declined to offer a rendering of the new building for publication.
Some residents offered suggestions for improvements to the store, such as a mural painted by a local artist on the back of the building, or a locally owned coffee shop inside the building instead of a Starbucks.
Developers promised other amenities inside the store in addition to the coffee shop, including expanded organic food offerings, a larger bulk department and better produce, which was well received.
“I may not be the only person here who shops only at Dillons, except for my fresh vegetables,” said Anne Patterson, Craig’s wife.
Despite some frustration with the plans, Dillons spokeswoman Sheila Lowrie was happy that so many people attended the meeting and spoke their minds.
“This store is a part of their community and we want their feedback to make sure that we’re meeting the needs of the community as best as we can,” she said.
Now it’s up to the Dillons developers to take these concerns into consideration and tweak plans before presenting them to the city, although some residents expressed concern that the plans were finished and the representatives were just seeking approval.
Lowrie said any further problems or suggestions about the plans should be funnelled through local neighborhood association presidents, who will then communicate them to Dillons attorney. Suggestions should be given by Thanksgiving.