by Max Brantley
The Chipotle Mexican Grill fast food chain filed a request with the city of Little Rock Monday for approval for a new one-story restaurant on the southwest corner of Markham and University, a site now occupied by the five-story Baker Building, built originally as the Fausett Building.
The proposal will be studied by city staff with recommendations in January, first for a subdivision committee meeting and then, if all goes smoothly, for the Planning Commission Jan. 24. The chain says it could open by the end of 2014.
The site is bracketed by two fast-food restaurants — a McDonald's nearing completion to the south (correction: it opened yesterday) and a Chick-fil-A to the west — that won approval despite staff and other reservations about traffic hazards. The Chick-fil-A has proved an ongoing issue because the tight lot can't always accommodate the drive-through business easily at busy times and that creates overlow pressure on West Markham with the heavy traffic heading to Park Plaza across the street.
Money talks to the City Board, of course. McDonald's paid some money to help correct problems caused by the Chick-fil-A when it was approved. A refresher from that McDonald's meeting:
Unversity, recently widened at the cost of zillions, will undoubtedly need correcting from this new traffic clogger before too long.
Ruth Bell with the Little Rock League of Women Voters also argued, "The bottom line is the more gridlocked you get at that location, the more people will prefer to go shopping elsewhere."
I don't know if a new Chipotle's was what she had in mind.
However, the application says there'll be no drive-through, unlike the adjoining restaurants, and that the developers had tried to maximize parking spaces (46) to accommodate the expected lunchtime rush. The application says it will be a major improvement in the look of the intersection and improve it for both pedestrians and vehicles. Right of way is to be dedicated along both Markham and University to provide for sidewalks and better turn lanes.The application for a planned development seeks a landscape waiver on the west and south sides of the 1.2-acre plot.
You can see a map of the site plan on the jump. The Midtown Design Overlay District Board has approved the idea.