Plans for old Benny’s a go upon zoning approval

Plans for old Benny’s a go upon zoning approval

Known for their upscale projects, the Carpionato Group submitted renderings for the proposed development at the former Benny’s locaton at 473 Putnam Pike, including a restaurant, several retail stores, and a bank on the end.

SMITHFIELD – If all goes well for the Carpionato Group’s plans at the former Benny’s location on Putnam Pike, the 1970s building will receive a 21st-century makeover, said attorney Joseph Shekarchi.

At the Smithfield Zoning Board meeting on April 24, the developer is seeking a special use permit for a drive-thru window and dimensional variances.

Shekarchi, representing the Carpionato Group, told The Valley Breeze & Observer that while tenants cannot be announced this early, as contracts are still being negotiated, the Carpionato Group plans to have “nationally and locally recognized” retailers, with a restaurant and a bank as well.

“Benny’s is a wonderful community store built in the ’70s. Unfortunately, we’re not in the ’70s anymore,” said Shekarchi, who is the Democratic majority leader in the Rhode Island House of Representatives.

The Planning Board forwarded a positive recommendation to the Zoning Board during its March 21 meeting. Shekarchi said if the Zoning Board grants approval, the developer would like to break ground by the end of this year, opening stores in 2020.

“It’s a great redevelopment for the town,” he said.

The building, located at 473 Putnam Pike, does not meet current fire, wetland or traffic codes, Shekarchi said during the Planning Board meeting. Redeveloping the building will put it in compliance with many, but not all.

“We’re trying to bring the building into compliance,” he said.

Project Engineer Steven Garafalo said plans to comply more with the comprehensive plan include reducing curb cut, and reducing the parking lot to one entrance and one exit. He said developers decided to keep the most easterly opening closest to Cedar Swamp Road.

Garafalo said the connection to the “Little Dave’s” (Dave’s Market) in the rear of the lot will remain open.

He added that the Carpionato Group is known for developments such as the Chapel View in Cranston and the Crown Plaza Hotel in Warwick. He said this is a “first-class” developer that maintains its properties well, giving buildings a face-lift every 10 years or so.

As far as dimensional relief, Shekarchi said while the new building is not entirely in compliance with zoning, the Carpionato Group’s plans will bring it closer. Requested variances include wetland and rear setback and relief on drive-thru stacking length, as the project is only planned to reach five of the eight vehicle lengths needed.

Plans for the 146,514-square-foot building include splitting the main building into two smaller spaces.

“It will increase the size of the land surrounding the building,” Shekarchi said.

In the renderings, the smaller 6,350-square-foot building to the left of the property will feature a restaurant and retail location. To the right, the larger building will be trimmed down to 18,000 square feet and will be home to several retail stores and end with a bank on the corner near Dave’s.

A special use permit for the drive-thru, which is needed for all drive-thrus in town, is needed for the bank.

Though the Carpionato Group previously purchased 29 of the 31 Benny’s locations for an estimated $100 million in investments in the properties, the group did not purchase the former Benny’s headquarters, located in the Esmond Mill complex at 340 Waterman Ave. since the 1960s.

The sale of that 540,272-square-foot building, valued at $3.3 million, is still pending. Plans have not yet been disclosed for the redevelopment of the headquarters property.