Proposed Upper Valley Plaza Project to Go Before City Planning Board

West Lebanon — If the Lebanon Planning Board gives final approval to an amended plan tomorrow night, construction on the expansion of Upper Valley Plaza that was announced almost a decade ago, could get under way this spring, a company spokesman said last week.

“Our ideal plan would be to receive the approval, get our tenant and financing lined up during the winter months and get started on it when the ground thaws in the spring with the business opening in the fall, said Robert Frazier, vice president of WS Development, the Chestnut Hill, Mass., developer of the plaza.

The company is seeking the Planning Board’s OK to reduce the 23,000-square-foot building approved in 2004 for a PetSmart store to 20,000 square feet, an amendment being made to accommodate the wishes of the city, said Barry Schuster, the Lebanon attorney who represents the plaza.

Both Frazier and Schuster said prospective tenants are waiting for final city approval before committing to the space.

“We’re going to let the tenant announce that they are opening there,” Frazier said, noting that the PetSmart announcement was premature and that the store’s name became tied to the approval, which perhaps made the issue more controversial than it would have been had just another unnamed retail space been opening in the plaza.

The development of the space was delayed by the plans for the underpass below Interstate 89 that now connects the Upper Valley and Kmart plazas to ease traffic on Route 12A.

The city also denied a building permit, seeking to have the building constructed at an elevation six feet higher to comply with floodplain standards. The New Hampshire Supreme Court ultimately ruled in favor of the Upper Valley Plaza in March 2009. The developers sought and were granted a two-year extension by the Planning Board in January 2010. An additional extension was approved last February.

When road work began on 12A, the proposed site was used as a staging area by the contractors. After Tropical Storm Irene flooded the plaza in August 2011, the city again sought to have the building constructed above flood level, relocated to another part of the plaza or modified, Schuster said.

“There wasn’t another feasible place in the plaza to relocate the building, so to try to accommodate the city, they reduced the size of the building,” he said, noting that if the city rejects the amendment, the developers will build the original 23,000-square-foot building at the same elevation. “The Supreme Court has made that clear.”

Since the flood, the plaza has been remodeled, new national stores and two restaurants added and the I-89 underpass completed, Frazier said. “We’re excited about the future of the plaza and getting a tenant in there.”