The southeast corner of Third Street and Eighth Avenue SE in downtown Cedar Rapids may be getting a facelift in the near future.
Casey’s General Store is considering building a new 4,200-square-foot store to replace its existing 2,916-square-foot location at 201 Eight Ave. SE. The store would be located near the corner of Third Street and Eighth Avenue SE and face Second Street SE, according to preliminary plans shared with the city.
“We are currently working with the city on some access issues with this site,” said Bill Walljasper, senior vice president and chief financial officer of Ankeny-based Casey’s. “As soon as those are finalized, our intent will be to replace the store utilizing the adjacent gravel lot. The new store would be our latest store design.”
Dave Elgin, Cedar Rapids public works director and city engineer, said the city is concerned about the existing entrance to the property from Eighth Avenue, particularly westbound customers turning left into the business.
“That kind of business can generate a lot of traffic,” Elgin said. “During peak traffic hours, motorists using the left lane are stopped behind someone waiting to turn into Casey’s because the road’s so busy.
“We lose the capacity of the two lanes and traffic is backed up through the signalized intersection.”
Elgin said the city wants Casey’s to agree in principle to a right-turn-in, right-turn-out access on Eighth Avenue if safety becomes an issue in the future. The city typically would install a raised median on Eighth Avenue to prevent traffic from turning left into the business.
“We want to encourage improvement of Casey’s facility and that site,” Elgin said. “Along with the new courthouse construction, we recently finished repaving Second and Third streets as well as Eighth Avenue.
“We know that Casey’s is planning to make a significant investment with its new store. We know the company doesn’t want to be confronted with another major cost two or three years down the road.
“We think we have a mutual interest to improve that area and not make it worse.”
Elgin said there is no significant history of traffic accidents in that area of Eighth Avenue SE. He said many motorists already turn at Second Street during peak hours to enter Casey’s.
Jennifer Pruden, executive director of the Czech Village/New Bohemia Main Street District, said Casey’s planned investment would be welcomed by businesses in the neighborhood, but the project’s overall design would be subject to review.
“We have an overlay district with boundaries set by a city ordinance,” Pruden said. “It requires that any building permits go before a technical advisory committee, which has specific design guidelines for this district.
“The committee wants to make sure that any new building fits in with the character of the neighborhood. It also looks at things like building orientation and street frontage.
“The review process is not meant to be a roadblock. We’re creating a destination neighborhood and we want recognize the historic character of the area and really play that up.”
Casey’s built its existing convenience store in 1984. Martin Oil Co. operated a service station on the property from 1942 until it was purchased by Casey’s.