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Hopes to reopen The Corner Store

March 13, 2013

by Sam Maxwell

Michael Brown had one topic on his mind when he addressed the Albany Board of Zoning Appeals Wednesday night: get The Corner Store back in business.

“I intend to come in there and try to do something good for the neighborhood,” said Brown. The Corner Store , at 106 Ontario St., and has been closed since September of last year.

Brown hopes that opening the store will help the process of “cleaning up” the 3rd ward, which has one of the highest crime rates as well as one of the poorest constituencies in the city. The 3rd ward also is home to many young mothers who do not have access to cars.

If the store is re-opened those mothers could have a place to purchase “milk for their kids and pampers for their babies,” said Brown, who served as councilman in the third ward for 15 years.

Michael Brown hopes The Corner Store will receive a use variance to re-open

Current 3rd ward councilmen Richard E. Bailey spoke in favor of the re-opening at the meeting. “I think this would be a good investment for the area,” said Bailey.

On top of cleaning up the streets, Brown said the The Corner Store would provide young children with fruits and vegetables.

If the Corner Store is to re-open, he hopes it will, “give kids another option besides candy and soda.” However, Brown did point out that the store would offer the typical convenient store items of candy, soda, and other snacks.

According to the application Brown submitted to the zoning board, “the property at 106 Ontario Street was operated for decades as a small-sized grocery/convenience store of less than 5,000 square feet that served primarily neighborhood clientele.”

After Brown bought the building the city determined that the longtime use of the property had been in violation of the City’s zoning regulations because the business was operating in a R-2A zoning district, which is meant for one and two family homes. In a letter that was sent in response to Brown’s application by the City of Albany, the proposed grocery store is not permitted in an R-2A zoning district.

The convenient stores that operated at 106 Ontario St. before The Corner Store were permitted under a special use variance. Each year the former owners of the store revisited the would zoning board.

If the zoning board grants Brown a use variance, it will eliminate the need to appear in front of the board every year.
A re-established Corner Store, though, would directly impact the nearby New City Market, a competitor at 561 Clinton Ave.

One New City Market employee said there are too many convenient stores in the neighborhood. “I don’t think the neighborhood can open another convenient store,” said Maria Fernandez, who works at New City.

Along with typical convenient store goods, the New City Market sells fresh produce and frozen products.
Fernandez thinks the addition of another convenient store in the neighborhood, could have a negative effect on the New City Market. “We could have less business,” she said.

Another nearby grocery not likely to feel the effect of The Corner Store is the Honest Weight Food Co-Op.
The store will be moving to a new location at 100 Watervliet Ave. at the end of June.

“We have out grown our current location,” said Jennifer Grainer, Marketing and Merchandising coordinator for Honest Weight Food Co-Op.
“We have been very fortunate,” she added. According to Grainer, Honest Weight Food Co-Op has been in the process of moving for five years. It is currently located at 484 Central Avenue.
Brown is optimistic that the board will grant his use variance so the store can re-open.
“I think the project speaks for itself,” said Brown.

No one opposed the variance request Wednesday, and the board agreed to render a decision in the near future.-30-

BZA – 03-13-4082 (03-13-13) by sammaxwell


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