Will Maria's Save Walgreens?

The chain drug store and the indie south side landmark bring their deal to ZAP

Will Maria's Save Walgreens?

Walgreens representatives will go before the city Zoning and Platting Commission next week with a unique proposition: Grant us zoning for a new drug store at South Lamar and Bluebonnet, and we'll give the people of South Austin a new taco joint.

It's odd that the fate of Maria's Taco X-Press would rest on the success of a national chain, but there you have it. Walgreens brought the popular restaurant into the equation after finding itself in a fix with the neighborhood association, which didn't fancy the idea of a big, dull retail chain in its far-from-homogenous neighborhood.

The plan calls for Walgreens to build its new store (now with a more neighborhood-friendly design) on the property, which includes part of the Taco X-Press site. But instead of booting the restaurant off site, Walgreens would foot the bill for a new Taco X-Press next door. Owner Maria Corbalan and her loyal following of customers have rallied behind the proposal and have created a Web site (www.savemarias.com) to gather support for the plan. Taco X-Press very nearly went the way of luxury condos a few years ago, but public outcry and a southbound economic picture helped it stay put. This time, Taco X-Press would just shift about 100 feet south.

When ZAP meets at 6pm Tuesday, Walgreens will make its second appearance before the commission, which last year essentially rubber-stamped the Walgreens plan, despite strong neighborhood opposition and uncertainty over the restaurant's fate. The City Council, however, sided with the NA and rejected the proposal. After that, Walgreens developer David Darr renewed his commitment to work with both the neighbors and Taco X-Press. The South Lamar Neighborhood Association has since warmed to the Walgreens proposal, but has yet to extend a formal endorsement. The proposal includes street improvements and other mitigation measures. Darr would also put up a performance bond that would enable the NA to sue if he fails to deliver on his promises. If ZAP approves the proposed zoning, the plan will return to the City Council some time this summer.

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Walgreens, Taco Xpress, Zoning and Platting Commission, ZAP, Maria Corbalan, David Darr, South Lamar Neighborhood Association

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