Wednesday, February 10, 2010

McAllen breaks ground on Bicentennial extension

McAllen breaks ground on Bicentennial extension
January 27, 2010 8:36 PM
Nick Pipitone
The Monitor

McALLEN — City officials and contractors broke ground on the long-awaited extension of Bicentennial Boulevard on Wednesday, saying that the 2.2-mile extension from Nolana to Trenton Road will go a long way toward alleviating traffic congestion in the city.

Plans for the extension have been 15 years in the making and have faced several obstacles along the way. City officials now estimate the $5.2 million project should be finished by fall 2012.

“One of our biggest challenges here is mobility,” Mayor Richard Cortez said. “We are a long and narrow city, and getting people from north to south and south to north is very important.”

Cortez said that adding another major four-lane, north-south corridor to the existing Jackson, McColl and Ware roads and 10th and 23rd streets is a good start to addressing the city’s traffic problem.

The extension will be similar to Second Street, with two northbound and two southbound lanes and a hike-and-bike trail along the east side of the corridor, though final landscaping and beautification is not expected until 2012 because of budgetary concerns, City Commissioner Scott Crane said.

But unlike Second Street and other major north-south roadways, the Bicentennial extension will have limited access and traffic lights, Crane said, which will make it a much faster route. The only intersections will be at 4 mile line and Dove Avenue.

“Because it is limited access, it helps...

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Here comes Cheddar's; Irving-based eatery to open new location in Brownsville

Here comes Cheddar's; Irving-based eatery to open new location in Brownsville
February 10, 2010 9:46 AM

Cheddar’s Casual CafĂ© needn’t worry: Brownsville loves its chain restaurants.

Cheddar’s is bringing its all-American comfort food concept to the city, with construction under way on a site at Frontage Road and Charlie Clark Drive, and an opening set for spring.

Jim Weber, executive vice president of operations for the company, seemed to want to downplay the fact that the restaurant is, in fact, a chain — a dirty word in some markets, maybe, but certainly not here.

"We don’t think of ourselves as a chain," Weber told The Brownsville Herald. "We’re a simple company that is very focused on great, quality food. We’re not a big company with 400 or 500 locations. We’re not trying to be the biggest guy out there."

That’s good, since the Irving-based company, which started in 1978 with a single store in Arlington, has just 82 locations in 20 states, according to the company’s Web site. Thirty-five of those locations are in Texas. In contrast, Applebee’s, founded in 1980, has nearly 2,000 restaurants in all 50 states and 15 foreign countries.

"We don’t take too many chances," Weber says. "We’re a conservative Texas company. We’re mindful about our growth. We try to be as thoughtful as we can."

He says the company is "pretty selective" about which markets to enter. McAllen got its first Cheddar’s just over a year ago and that store has been very successful, Weber says, adding that the company is expecting similar success in Brownsville.

"We feel great about the Valley and southern Texas," he says. "We were very confident (about the decision to come to the Valley). We’re generally received very positively."

Each Cheddar’s location employs 154 people. Weber expects a flood of applications once the "now hiring" sign goes up, noting that Cheddar’s doesn’t have to do much in the way of advertising for employees. The company does no advertising at all, in fact.

"We don’t run TV ads," Weber says. "We don’t do any of that. We invest all that in our people and in our quality products."

He describes the restaurant as a "casual dinner house — a little more polished," with an emphasis on "quality food, fair price and great atmosphere."

The new Cheddar’s sits on a 1.8-acre outparcel — part of the land assembled by Coastal Realty, a local commercial real estate firm, for the construction of Lowe’s. Lowe’s is the big anchor for North Towne Plaza, as the development is called.

Coastal’s Mark Barnard says marketing of the outparcels to "junior anchors" started before the Lowe’s was finished, and Cheddar’s was the first one to bite.

"The outparcel users and junior anchors always follow the large anchors such as Lowe’s," he says. "Now that Cheddar’s is under construction, other restaurants will look more seriously at the North Towne project."

Surrounding Cheddar’s is a 3-acre parcel that would work for...

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