Making a comeback: South Hadley Plaza attracts dollar store, other developments in works

  • Dollar General recently opened a new store next to Dunkin’ Donuts in the South Hadley Plaza. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • The South Hadley Plaza at the corner of Newton and Lyman streets in South Hadley. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Newly opened Dollar General at South Hadley Plaza, Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • The former Bank of America branch at South Hadley Plaza, Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018. It has been closed since March 27. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • The former Bank of America branch at South Hadley Plaza. It has been closed since March 27. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Audrey Quinlan waits on customers at the newly opened Dollar General at South Hadley Plaza last week. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Audrey Quinlan waits on customers at the newly opened Dollar General at South Hadley Plaza, Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • The former site of Big Y supermarket at South Hadley Plaza, Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Audrey Quinlan waits on customers at the newly opened Dollar General at South Hadley Plaza, Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer 
Published: 9/3/2018 12:12:50 AM

SOUTH HADLEY — A once-bustling shopping plaza at one of the town’s busiest intersections may be on the verge of a comeback.

Though the South Hadley Plaza at the corner of Newton and Lyman streets still attracts visitors to longtime businesses such as Rocky’s Ace Hardware and Dunkin’ Donuts, it’s been five years since Big Y closed its supermarket on the site — a giant store that has since been demolished.

In recent weeks, however, a new Dollar General has opened at the plaza, and its owners say more changes are afoot, including residential possibilities where Big Y used to be located. Other businesses currently located in the plaza include General Cleaners, Mandarin Gourmet and an Armed Forces Career Center.

Dollar General

The new Dollar General opened earlier this month and is situated in the site of a former video rental store and office space.

“(Dollar General) was interested in the South Hadley market, and we felt that they would be a good addition because of the product categories that they sell and the needs of the community,” said Rocco Falcone, president of Rocky’s Ace Hardware and manager of South Hadley Plaza, LLC.

Falcone added that the business partners had not been able to attract a pharmacy to the plaza, as the town had hoped, but he believes that Dollar General can provide some of the same products that could be found at a pharmacy, such as food and health and beauty items. Dollar General signed a 10-year lease for the space, he said.

Gary Burchard, Dollar General’s district manager, expressed hopes that the business will provide the community with greater opportunities to shop within South Hadley.

“We’re trying to be open for everyone,” Burchard said. “We’re hoping it makes it a lot more convenient for everyone else in the town so they don’t have to go traveling to Chicopee for necessities.”

According to Burchard, business thus far has been “fantastic.”

“The grand opening was spectacular,” he said. “I’ve done six of these so far, and that one was by far the busiest. We had peoplewrapped around the store, so it was phenomenal.”

Falcone, along with Peter Picknelly, CEO of Peter Pan Bus Lines, and the Yee family, which owns several Pioneer Valley restaurants, bought the plaza for $2.4 million in May 2016. The plaza’s previous owners, South Hadley Limited Partnership, filed for bankruptcy in Nov. 2015.

The former Big Y building, which had been vacant since the store’s closing in 2013, was demolished last year. Currently, Falcone said, the plaza owners are considering different uses for this space.

The area has recently been rezoned to allow for mixed use, including residential purposes.

“We’ve created a smart growth district that allows housing to be developed in that area under certain conditions, and we hope that it will be used,” said Richard Harris, director of the South Hadley Planning and Conservation Department.

According to Town Administrator Mike Sullivan, the town is not currently negotiating or interacting with the plaza’s owners, but is “certainly willing to help them” if they decide to pursue this option.

“It’s just another tool to try to bring some order and consistency to the business and residential environment,” Sullivan said of the smart growth district. The residential district would also include areas beyond the plaza.

The Smart Growth Zoning and Housing Production Act, also known as Chapter 40R, was created as an attempt to increase affordable housing opportunities in Massachusetts. Under this act, communities are encouraged to establish dense residential or mixed-use zoning districts that contain a sizeable amount of affordable housing units.

Falcone said that the business partners are “entertaining” residential purposes at the moment, but that nothing has been finalized.

Falcone also has plans to establish a new, larger Rocky’s Ace Hardware in the space, although construction will not move forward until the group has finalized the additional use for the site.

The site of a former Friendly’s also remains vacant at the plaza, although Falcone said that the business partners are speaking with various family restaurant owners to fill the space and hopes to have an update “in the next month or two.”

Since purchasing the plaza, Falcone said that progress has been going “slowly, but as expected.”

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at jvoghel@gazettenet.com




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