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SOUTH PORTLAND — After a year of vetting and modifications, plans to repurpose the former Maine Army National Guard Armory were unanimously approved Tuesday night by the Planning Board.
The board also approved curbside grocery pickup services at both Hannaford Bros. stores in the city.
The vacant World War II-era armory at 682 Broadway will be refashioned into an Irving gas station with 10 pumps and a convenience store, with available space on the second floor for retail, office and community meeting space.
The building will be outfitted with light-emitting diode fixtures on the exterior and under the fueling canopy, two electric-vehicle charging stations, a public gazebo, and 60 parking spaces.
Priority Real Estate Group, the Topsham-based developer, will also seek an easement for a portion on the back of the property owned by Portland Pipe Line Corp. for a walking trail that will be accessed from the front of the property.
The city purchased the armory in April 2006 for $650,000 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.
The city initially leased the building in 2011 to Cape Elizabeth-based Fore River Sound Stage to be used for photo and video production. The lease was given up in 2014 by the business owner.
A goal throughout the project will be retaining the historical appearance of the building, David Latulippe, vice president of Priority, told Planning Board members Monday.
Stephanie Gilbert, who lives behind the armory on Hudson Road, commended Latulippe and his team for their work and neighborhood outreach.
“I’ve been able to call any time,” she said. “I feel very informed in the process of the development of this site.”
But Gilbert and others also said they have concerns about the increased level of traffic that the easement and trail might add, particularly snowmobile traffic in the winter.
“We are concerned that these uses are another impact on the neighborhood,” Gilbert said. “We did have concerns, as a group, about use of the trail and our privacy.”
“We would really like to see that this trail is given some time for more neighborhood discussion,” she said.
The last point of discussion was about the Irving sign, which will stand 18 feet tall in front of the building at the interstection of Broadway and Waterman Drive.
“I’m having a really hard time with this sign,” Planning Board member Kathleen Phillips said. “I think it would really detract from the art-deco style of the building. I guess I would like to say that the scale of it seems really huge in my mind, and it just needs to be more historically sensitive to the building and what were trying to preserve for this wonderful city of ours.”
Board member Linda Boudreau agreed.
“I hate the sign,” she said. “We’re working so hard to preserve the look of this building, and it looks to me like we have a plastic sign in the front yard on a brick pedestal.”
“You’ve done a fantastic job of coming up with an idea that preserves this old building and treats this gateway to the city,” Boudreau told Latulippe. “I think the sign is an important issue.”
Latulippe said Irving representatives are willing to scale down the level of advertising and change the font on the sign to make it “softer.”
Construction will likely take six months and is expected to begin next spring.
The innovation at Hannaford supermarkets in South Portland will give customers the option to order groceries over the phone or Internet and pick them up, for no extra charge, at the front of the stores at 415 Philbrook Ave. and 50 Cottage Road.
In the last two years, about 30 other Hannaford stores across New England have started offering Hannaford-to-Go, J.M. Lord, Hannaford senior project engineer, told the board before it unanimously approved the proposal.
Curbside pick-up is already offered at Hannaford supermarkets in Kennebunk, North Windham, Augusta, Biddeford, Westbrook and Yarmouth.
“You can order your groceries online, the employees will do the shopping for you, and they’ll give you a designated time to pick up groceries,” Lord said.
Unlike the other Hannaford-to-Go operations, where customers pull up to at designated area at the front or back of the store for pick up – much like a drive-through at a restaurant or pharmacy – the curbside system in South Portland will be slightly modified.
Customers will still be able to pre-order, but they will either walk inside and grab their groceries from a locker at the front of the store, or have an employee deliver the groceries to their car.
In fact, because Hannaford ultimately decided not to build pick-up areas with awnings and car loops, Planning and Development Director Tex Haeuser said it wasn’t even necessary to bring the application before the Planning Board.
Customers will be able to pre-order anything except pharmaceuticals, Lord said.
“I think this is just the beginning,” Lord said. “I think you’re going to see other grocery stores doing this as well.”
Hannaford-to-Go will likely be implemented before the end of the year, and be available from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. every day the stores are open, Lord said.
After receiving final approval from the South Portland Planning Board Tuesday night, the former Maine Army National Guard Armory at 682 Broadway will be repurposed into an Irving gas station and convenience store.