Little Caesars eyeing Vegas

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Council eliminates 1 hurdle; DOT approval needed

By Martin Salazar

One of the nation’s largest pizza chains, Little Caesars, wants to set up shop in Las Vegas, and the City Council voted last week to eliminate one of the zoning hurdles it had been facing.

Little Caesars wants to open a store at the northeast corner of Seventh Street and Airway Road, in the vacant lot  between Shoes ‘N Boots and Walgreens. When the property, which is owned by Carlos Lopez, was rezoned in 2007, the city imposed the condition that a 2 foot wall be built along the southerly property line to eliminate any traffic on Airway.

Lopez told the Council last month that not allowing any access to the property off of Airway would kill the Little Caesars deal.

At a public hearing on May 7, several people who live on or near Airway Road raised concerns about increased traffic on Airway negatively impacting them.

Because of the concerns, the Council held off on making a decision until a traffic study could be done and other concerns be addressed.

On Thursday, Gerald Garcia, the city’s zoning and licensing supervisor, notified the Council that a traffic study had been conducted. Garcia said the engineering consultant hired by the city to do the study determined that Airway Road currently has a low traffic count and that, in the engineer’s view, a Little Caesars in that area wouldn’t cause congestion on Airway Road.

The Council voted 3-0 to repeal the mandate for a 2 foot wall along Airway, effectively giving the developers the OK to create an entrance to the property off of that street. Councilman David Romero was not at Thursday’s meeting.

“We’re excited to move forward with the project,” developer Alfredo Barrenechea with Albuquerque-based Western States Retail & Investment told the Council.

The developer will now have to get a permit from the state Department of Transportation because Seventh Street is a state highway. Barrenechea told the Optic that they plan to break ground as soon as that permit is granted.

Noise concerns were also raised by neighbors, and the developers said they would be willing to increase the size of the fence behind the property from 6 feet to 8 feet if that’s what the neighbors want.

The developers had also been asked to consider covering the cost of improvements to Airway road, but Lucas Marquez, the city’s interim community development director, told the Council the price tag for those improvements would be between $35,000 and $40,000. Marquez said that amount was deemed to be excessive, and the developers said that while they’re willing to talk to the city about them, they weren’t prepared to commit to paying for them, given the fact that it would add a significant cost to the project.

Developers pointed to the additional gross receipts tax revenues and jobs that would be created if Little Caesars were to open a local store. The company plans to hire a full-time manager and 25 hourly employees if the store becomes a reality, the Council was told.