Board approves Panera site plans

Andrew M. Hart, a landscape architect with Bergman Associates, made a presentation earlier this month to the Watertown Planning Board detailing Panera’s plan to update the former TGI Fridays on Arsenal Street and move its Watertown location to the vacant storefront. Craig Fox/Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN — The new Panera Bread restaurant is expected to be open early next year in the Watertown Towne Center on Route 3.

The Watertown Town Planning Board on Monday unanimously approved site plans for the new restaurant that will be moving into the former TGI Fridays, just a couple of hundred yards from the existing Panera Bread in the sprawling retail center.

The Missouri-based restaurant chain wants to update the former TGI Fridays location so it can have a drive-up window.

Representatives of COR Development Co., Syracuse, which owns Watertown Towne Center, presented changes to the site plans before they were approved.

Andrew M. Hart, a landscape architect with Bergman Associates, told the planning board it was changing landscaping on the parcel to keep the project within the construction budget.

Last month, the planning board required that the developer construct a public sidewalk in front of the restaurant and close to Route 3.

The cost of the sidewalk would put the project over budget, so the landscaping plans were changing, Mr. Hart said.

“I understand you’re giving up some things, but we’re gaining some things,” Planning Board Co-chair Thomas E. Boxberger said.

Construction is expected to start in the next few months and be finished by the end of the year or early next year.

A two-lane drive will lead customers to the drive-up window, which will be located on the restaurant’s existing front side of the building. The new entrance into the restaurant will be on the building’s west side. An outdoor patio will also be on that side of the restaurant.

The building will have the familiar brown brick, green-and-beige color schemes that other Panera restaurants have.

It is the drive-up window that’s prompting the move. Panera cannot develop that amenity in its current location in a storefront along a strip mall portion of the retail plaza.

Target is one of the anchors of the plaza.

TGI Fridays has been vacant since it closed in February 2020.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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