Kenner council approves new budget, 2-year brake tags, CarMax store plans _lowres

Associated Press photo by LM OTERO -- A CarMax salesman talks with a customer at the company's Plano, Texas, used car dealership in this 2014 file photo.

Update, Thursday, June 2, 5:50 p.m.: The Kenner City Council endorsed plans for the used-car retailing giant CarMax to build its first New Orleans area-store in Kenner.

Officials at CarMax said the $25 million store would create up to 200 full-time jobs, though the place might not be finished until 2018 because construction plans call for a lengthy preparation period.

Original story

CarMax, the largest used-car retailer in the U.S., could soon have authorization to build its first New Orleans-area store in Kenner.

The Kenner City Council is scheduled to vote Thursday on a proposed two-phase project to create a 16-acre sales and service facility on a site just southeast of the Esplanade Mall. The site’s general boundaries are 32nd Street, Connecticut Avenue, Interstate 10 and the Duncan Canal.

Officials at CarMax say the $25 million store would create up to 200 full-time jobs.

The plan received unanimous approval from the city’s Planning Commission in April.

City Planning Director Jay Hebert said this would be the first time someone has taken a piece of land left vacant after the so-called “airport buyout” of the 1990s and returned it to commerce. “We are hoping this is the first of many to follow,” he said.

CarMax plans to purchase most of the land for the store from Home Depot, though it will need to buy smaller parcels from both Kenner City Attorney Leigh Roussel and a company managed by Baton Rouge real estate agent Beau Box.

Roussel, who has worked for Kenner for about a decade, obtained the 50-by-100-foot parcel in 2013, almost three years before becoming the city’s chief legal adviser in January.

Houses once occupied the empty land where CarMax hopes to build its Kenner store. But the New Orleans Aviation Board bought out most of the homeowners there in the 1990s while settling a lawsuit over noise and safety concerns near Louis Armstrong International Airport.

Home Depot at one point intended to build a store there, Hebert said, but it abandoned those plans in the face of an economic downturn.

CarMax came into the picture last year, proposing to install a dealership, service center and private carwash, with one entrance on 32nd Street and another on Connecticut Avenue. It intends later to add an extra display area and another service center.

Residents of the adjacent Lincoln Manor subdivision have expressed concern about whether the store might limit their access to the neighborhood. Hebert said CarMax aims to address those concerns by providing for the construction of a public road linking Duncan and 30th streets, which are perpendicular to each other just west of the store but don’t intersect.

That roadway would enable neighborhood drivers to drive north and south between 30th and 32nd streets using Duncan Street, called Arkansas Avenue near 32nd.

CarMax’s only other store in Louisiana is in Baton Rouge. The Kenner site is part of a nationwide growth strategy.

The store’s construction would require a lengthy preparation period and might not be completed before 2018, Hebert said.