CONWAY — Long-held rumors about a Market Basket coming to North Conway were confirmed this week, as representatives about the project are to appear before the Conway Planning Board Thursday.
Formal site-plan review is slated for Sept. 27. On Thursday, the agenda carried the following notice under other business: “1675 White Mountain Highway, LLC/Settler’s R2, Inc/13 Green Street Properties, LLC/Rock Development, LLC and Barnes Development, LLC (PID 235-78.01, 82, 85, 90 & 92) – Request for concurrent site plan and subdivision review.”
Plans for the 69,845-square-foot store were filed with the planning department at Conway Town Hall this month.
“I guess the cat is out of the bag,” developer Robert Barsamian of OVP Management told The Conway Daily Sun in an interview from his Newton, Mass., office Tuesday.
OVP Management owns and manages Settlers Green, the retail complex that includes Settlers Green, Settlers Crossing, Settlers Corner and the recently opened Settlers Green Streetside, all in North Conway. Barsamian said that pending all approvals, he hoped that the project could be built “as soon as possible,” meaning a construction start could be possible this season.
The store would be located on Settlers Green-owned property at the former site of Tennis Anyone, east of Settlers Green Streetside between the North-South Road and Route 16, east of the current layout of McMillan Lane. McMillan Lane would be relocated east toward the North-South Road.
Selectmen in the past have been opposed to further curb cuts on the North-South Road.
Barsamian said his company is still holding discussions with Town Engineer Paul DegliAngeli and the state Department of Transportation about road issues.
When asked of the access from the North-South Road to Common Court to Settlers Green might be moved north and possibly made into a third roundabout on the North-South Road, Barsamian said those details are still being worked on.
He said the new site at the former Tennis Anyone offers many pluses. “It will kind of complete Settlers Corner (home to Staples and the Home Depot, off Barnes Road). If you are at Settlers Streetside and look east (toward the Green Hills), you will drive into Market Basket, so the approach is great, and it will have a pedestrianized feel to it — even though it will be a supermarket, it won’t have that big asphalt feel to it. It will feel more like a retail development,” said Barsamian.
He said Market Basket — a Massachusetts-based chain that operates more than 50 grocery stores in New Hampshire and Massachusetts — will add to the region. “Having a Market Basket is a real plus — they bring a whole another dimension to the community both for visitors and residents.”
The store would be located within a mile of grocery stores at Walmart, Hannaford and Shaw’s.
Asked if he thought that the valley can support four grocery stores within a mile of one another, Barsamian deferred to the expertise of Market Basket’s management. “We’re the developer, not the operator — the operator analyzes the markets they want to be in and they have chosen North Conway. They believe there is room for a fourth grocery store, and we are excited about having them in North Conway — they wouldn’t spend all this time and effort if they didn’t think there was room for a fourth,” said Barsamian.
Previously, Barsamian received approval for an 80,000-square-foot grocery store and restaurant that was to be located at the old North Conway Drive-In behind TJ Maxx and the Northway Plaza.
That was expected to be the site of Market Basket but now the Tennis Anyone site has been chosen.
Barsamaian still owns the former drive-in property. Now that the former Tennis Anyone site has been selected for Market Basket, he said that the former drive-in property is under consideration for other projects.
“We’re looking at it for a few different uses, perhaps including residential and a few commercial uses, or maybe a combination of both. Some time by the end of the year we will be determining whether to go for site approval for that depending on which direction we go in. We’re looking at a variety of options and we are trying to understand the economics of all of those,” said Barsamian, who in the past has said that he was open to considering the concept of building some type of work force housing to alleviate the high demand for affordable housing for his retail workers.
Barsamian owns the nearby former North Conway Athletic Club site at the top of Barnes Road. In the past, plans for that site have included discussions about a possible hotel. Barsamian said the hotel remains a possibility as do other uses.
“As you know,” he said, “retail is in a state of flux so we have to be very, very careful about whatever we do, and to make sure that whatever we do we do it right and that it is filling a need for the community so that it can be sustained for a long time and that it will contribute. We will look at the hotel option but if that’s not right, we will go in a different direction. The options are wide open.”
The Conway Planning Board is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. at Conway Town Hall Aug. 9.
UPDATE AUG. 10: The Conway Planning Board briefly addressed the issue at its meeting Aug. 9, granting the project concurrent site plan and subdivision review with representatives to appear before the board at its Sept. 27 meeting. The Conway Planning Board and town officials have yet to confirm that the project is in fact a Market Basket but developer Robert Barsamian confirmed that information in his interview Aug. 7 with The Conway Daily Sun. — T.E..