WATERTOWN — After rumors first circulated before the COVID-19 pandemic, Chick-fil-A plans to open its first location in the north country in City Center — a sprawling development near Interstate 81 and Arsenal Street.
Michael A. Lumbis, the city’s planning and community development director, said Thursday that plans were submitted to his office earlier this week to build a Chick-fil-A restaurant at the site of the former Ruby Tuesday location in the City Center plaza at Western Boulevard and Arsenal Street.
Plans call for demolishing Ruby Tuesday and a “rebuild” of a nearly 5,000-square-foot restaurant at that location, Mr. Lumbis said.
The closest Chick-fil-A — known for the “original chicken sandwich” — is in Cicero, Onondaga County, and another one is planned to open in April in Liverpool, also in Onondaga County. Plattsburgh, Clinton County, also has a franchise.
Mr. Lumbis said he and his family sometimes stops at the Chick-fil-A in Cicero when in the area.
“I know my kids are excited about it,” he said.
The Albany engineering firm Boehlert Engineering is slated to present site plans to the city’s Planning Board on Feb. 2. But plans also will go before the county’s Planning Board on Jan. 26, because the project is within the 500-feet border of the town of Watertown, city planner Geoffrey T. Urda said.
There was talk that the Georgia-based chain was looking at the Ruby Tuesday location about a year ago. Timothy Freitag, an engineer with Boehlert Engineering, first contacted city planners about a year ago, but did not specify he was inquiring about that site for Chick-fil-A, Mr. Lumbis said.
While it’s not going to be downtown, Donald W. Rutherford, CEO of the Watertown Local Development Center, said it’s good news Chick-fil-A will open in Watertown.
“I hadn’t heard it,” he said. “I like it. It’s good news.”
The restaurant would have seating for 104 inside, 28 seats outside and a 61-space parking lot. The drive-up window would face Starbuck’s and have a double lane drive-up that would wrap around the building on three sides.
There are about 2,700 Chick-fil-A restaurants across the country.
In August 2018, Ruby Tuesday abruptly closed amid other closures in upstate New York. Alexandria Bay developer Patrick M. Donegan owns the plaza, which includes IHOP, Buffalo Wild Wings, Five Guys Burgers and Fries, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Holiday Inn Express and the Hilton Garden Inn.
When the chain has opened some locations, Chick-fil-A has attracted so many customers that the restaurants have created traffic jams.
There’s no word about when the restaurant might open.
Mr. Freitag and Mr. Donegan could not be reached for comment.