MANLIUS — During the Sept. 12 Village of Manlius Board of Trustees meeting, Matt Napierala, P.E., of Napierala Consulting, informed the board that he is in the process of putting together a new zone change application for the redevelopment of the former fire station site off Stickley Drive.
He explained that the applicant, Hospitality Restaurant Group, has made significant changes to its previous proposal, which involved demolishing the existing fire station and constructing a typical-style drive-through Taco Bell restaurant.
The applicant’s new proposal calls for upgrading the interior and exterior of the existing building to create a “Taco Bell Cantina” that would incorporate both a drive-through and a sit-down restaurant.
According to Mike McCracken, director of asset development with Hospitality Restaurant Group, the exterior brick would be darkened to give it a more modern look, and the signage would be black and white and much more muted than previously proposed. The plan also calls for significant green space in the front of the property, an outdoor seating area, and modern-looking, all-season garage doors that could be raised in nice weather.
One side of the building’s ground floor would have the typical Taco Bell layout, while the other side would be an expanded restaurant space or meeting/event space.
The restaurant’s expanded Tex-Mex-themed menu would include some healthy options, like power bowls, and a limited selection of alcoholic beverages.
McCracken informed the board that Taco Bell Cantina restaurants also have a live entertainment component.
“The right side of the building would be utilized for that type of thing,” he said. “You could do small acts, you could do comedy nights, you could do open mic nights — things that would give some of the local community some other options.”
The building also has a private room in the back that could be used for events.
The large upstairs conference room could be used to host Hospitality Restaurant Group Area Coach meetings in the short term, and it could eventually serve as a community space, according to McCracken.
“The prior proposal was going to turn that into four apartments,” said McCracken. “We think at this point we would rather use the upstairs for the meeting room space. I’ve thrown around the idea of a teen center to make it available to the community. We’ve got to get creative with it.”
According to McCracken, a drive-through is still a necessary part of the new proposal, but it is a much smaller component of the overall project than it was initially.
“Before, we were talking about an 80-20 percent mix — 80 percent drive-through, 20 percent dine-in,” he said. “This is likely to be closer to 50-50 or maybe even skewed a little higher towards dine-in customers.”
When discussing the drive-through, Napierala said that when compared to the existing Burger King drive-through and the incoming Starbucks drive-through, the proposed Taco Bell would have significantly greater vehicle queuing ability on its site.
McCracken added that most of the time if there were six cars waiting in the queue, four or five of the vehicles wouldn’t be visible from the street.
“They will be hidden behind the building,” he said. “It’s a much, much larger building. It’s two and a half times as wide as a typical Taco Bell.”
He also stated that Taco Bell drive-throughs are the fastest in the industry in terms of the time between ordering and exiting, so the chances of the queue getting backed up are very slim.
In response to potential safety concerns, McCracken pointed out that vehicles generally move very slowly through drive-throughs.
“People come in slowly, they have to wait until they order, they slowly creep up to the window, and they creep out of the drive-through,” he said.
To accommodate the proposed drive-through, the applicant is requesting that the property be designated as a Commercial 1 (C1) zone versus a Commercial (C) zone.
As the village law currently stands, zone C does not allow drive-through service at restaurants. In a C1 zone, drive-throughs are permitted upon the issuance of a special use permit.
Napierala said he hoped to have the new zone change application completed by the end of the week or the beginning of the following week, and that the application review process will begin next month.
Manlius Village Board meetings begin at 6 p.m. on the second Tuesday of every month in the Manlius Village Centre Board Room, 1 Arkie Albanese Ave., Manlius.