ITHACA, N.Y. — The mall might be struggling, and the pandemic has clocked brick-and-mortar retail and restaurants, but fortune favors the brave, one supposes. Regional commercial retail developer Benderson is bringing forth plans for another addition to its South Meadow Square Property on the 700 Block of South Meadow Street.

The latest proposal calls for a 7,000 square-foot freestanding structure to be built on what is currently surface parking at the far end of the Spectrum and PetSmart parking aisles (if you’ve ever frequented South Meadow Square, then you know this part of the parking lot is seldom used). As the application from Buffalo-based Benderson notes, no zoning variances would be needed for the new addition.

Benderson has not stated a planned tenant in any of the paperwork, and the new building is designed to be suitable to either a retail tenant or a restaurant tenant. Presumably, the intent is a restaurant tenant because drawings show plans for an outdoor dining patio on the east side of the new building. For purely illustrative purposes here, 7,000 square-feet is typical for a mid-sized restaurant. Applebee’s are usually about 5,500 sqaure feet, and Olive Gardens are around 8,000 square feet. The project also includes the usual complement of landscaping, drainage and lighting improvements.

What typically happens in retail development is that the owner/developer (in this case Benderson) will build the shell of the building, constructing the frame and building out the exterior and the interior rough-ins, but the inside is left unfinished so that a future tenant can “fit-out” the space with interior walls, fixtures and so forth once a lease has been signed, and usually the fit-out contractor is different from the builder used by the developer. As long as the utility connections are suitable, the space can be geared towards a restaurant, or towards retail depending on the tenant Benderson secures. The construction of the building shell is estimated to cost about $355,000, per the Site Plan Review application.

Benderson has proposed and undertaken multiple additions over the past several years. New end-cap spaces on the main retail strip house a Spectrum office and the new space for Trader Joe’s (originally, they were supposed to move next to the new Old Navy in part of the former Hobby Lobby space. but after confirming the move, they did, in fact, opt for the new endcap space, with an opening later this fall). A new 3,200 square-foot space has been approved for construction next to Firehouse Subs, but has yet to be built out.

Rather curiously, the documents note that a 15,000 square-foot retail space in part of the old Hobby Lobby appears to be spoken for, though there is no named retail tenant. A call to Eric Recoon, Benderson’s Vice President of Development, was not returned.

Brian Crandall

Brian Crandall reports on housing and development for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached at