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Panera Bread to Open in Empty Blockbuster

Northampton Crossings approaches the Lower Nazareth Planning Commission about the plan.

Instead of videos and popcorn, consumers may soon be able to get soup and sandwiches in the former Blockbuster on Route 248. Panera Bread wants to open a restaurant in the empty storefront in Northampton Crossings.

Blockbuster closed more than a year ago.

Jerrold Bermingham, executive vice president for National Realty and Development Corp., spoke to the last night (Aug. 15) about the revised final land development plan for the store. National Realty, located in Purchase, NY, represented the Crossings.

Panera Bread wants to increase the building by 60 square feet, Bermingham said. The addition would be constructed on the end. The building shares an interior wall with .

Robert Cunningham, a project engineer at Langan Engineering in Bethlehem and also representing Panera, said Panera would need to seek 11 variances and a special exception due to the extra 60 square feet and adding a drive-thru. Before going to the , he said, Panera and its representatives wanted some guidance from the planning commission.

If the plans smoothly pass through the zoning board, planning commission and supervisors, then Panera might be able to open its doors in about six months, Bermingham said.

Lori Seese, the township's planning and zoning administrator, told the commissioners that between the time the building was constructed and now, the ordinances were made more strict. This is why Panera has to ask for so many variances, she said.

One of the variances concerns road frontage. The ordinance states that a store must sit 75 feet away from the road. Cunningham said the building is actually 50 feet from the road. With the addition on the building, it would be 45 feet from the road, he said.

Other variances would be needed for additional parking spots behind the building, an increase in the driveway from 37 feet to 44 feet, more fencing and two store signs instead of one.  

Tara Capecci, the planning commission secretary who was absent from the meeting, said in a written statement she had a concern with the left-turning lane in front of . Capecci suggested that maybe traffic should be forced to go up to the traffic light in front of , then make a left turn.

Township engineer Albert Kortze said that would cause more problems because there are two lanes that turn left, but they merge into one soon after.

“You have people who don’t pay attention that the lanes go down to one lane,” Kortze said. “I turn at that left just to avoid the left at the light.”

Bermingham said Panera and the engineers would look into all of the commissioners’ suggestions. Kortze said he would like to see a stormwater report to make sure the current stormwater management system can handle extra runoff. 

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