The development, located north of Spring Valley Road along Central Expressway, opened in 2017 and includes two buildings with space for seven restaurants. Existing tenants include Dog Haus Biergarten, OMG Tacos and The Halal Guys.
Approval of the zoning change on Dec. 7 allows the developer, Hermansen Land Development, to build two additional restaurants on the adjacent lot and to expand the size of outdoor dining areas. The existing payday loan business on that lot will be demolished some time after its lease expires in January, developer Kirk Hermansen said.
Hermansen’s original request included drive-thrus on both restaurants; however, one drive-thru would be limited to prepaid pickup orders only, while the other would be full-service. The conventional drive-thru feature was a sticking point for several council members who said the concept was not congruent with council’s original vision for the project, approved in 2014.
Andrew Laska, who is the former president of the Richardson Heights Neighborhood Association, said the association was opposed to drive-thrus at the time of the restaurant park's approval by the City Planning Commission. The association changed its position to neutral after the original design was amended.
“We want something that is economically successful in the long run for cities, and drive-thrus tend not to be that,” he said.
The demand for drive-thru service at the restaurant park predates COVID-19, Hermansen said. But consumer behaviors have changed as a result of the pandemic, and the need for this convenience is now more heightened than ever, he said.
“The effects of this pandemic are generational,” he said. “I don't think these are things that will change overnight when the vaccine rolls out. I think habits have changed permanently.”
Council Member Ken Hutchenrider proposed that council approve the request with the stipulation that the drive-thrus be used for prepaid orders only. However, Hermansen can return and request a special-use permit for a conventional drive-thru restaurant in the future. Council also reserved the right to vet a conventional drive-thru tenant, according to the motion, which was approved unanimously.
Editor's note: This article has been edited to clarify statements made by Andrew Laska.