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Redevelopment forces business owners to scramble

Since the Park Avenue development deal between the city of South Lake Tahoe and American Skiing Company was finalized at the end of October, business owners have been preparing to vacate the area.

While many business owners declined to comment on the situation for legal reasons, others voiced their concerns clearly.

Kurt Carlsen, co-owner of Bandanas Gourmet Pizza, may know the redevelopment process better than anyone – he’s already been through it once before.



Carlsen bought Bandanas Pizza in 1987, when it was located near Ski Run Boulevard. Two years later, the city of South Lake Tahoe bought out his business and the building was torn down as part of the Ski Run Redevelopment project.

Carlsen said he drove around town with the pizza oven in the back of his truck for eight months before he found a new location.




“The city tried to relocate us and they offered sites like the concession in the bowling alley and out at the airport but those weren’t good locations,” Carlsen said. “I just happened to find this location that I’m in now on my own. That’s when I had to take in a partner because I couldn’t afford it by myself.”

Carlsen and Fred Barry opened the new Bandanas Pizza in 1990 at 4076 Lake Tahoe Blvd., just a short jaunt from Stateline.

Since then Carlsen said business has been thriving.

“We’re up 35 percent from last year, part of that is due to the weather, but business has been really good,” he said.

But the location that Carlsen claims as his bread and butter is about to become the demise of his business. Settled near the center of Park Avenue redevelopment project, Bandanas Pizza is scheduled to be forced out of its home once again.

Carlsen said he’s preparing to close his doors in March. This time around, however, Carlsen said the likelihood for relocation doesn’t look good.

“The city has suggested the Swiss Chalet shopping center (near Sierra Boulevard) but going down toward the ‘Y’ is unacceptable. It changes everything for me,” he said. “Ideally, I’d like to stay where I’m at or relocate to the new development area, in a priority position.”

But Carlsen said there is no guarantee that he’ll get any space at all in the new development, and he is concerned that the developers might choose the buying power of larger corporations to fill their space. Even if he gets his wish, he’ll have two years of down time and possibly an increase in rent.

“It’s all hearsay but people are saying it may be triple what I’m paying now which is $2.25 a square foot,” Carlsen said. “And $5 or $6 a square foot is almost unacceptable in this town.”

And that’s not the end of Carlsen and Barry’s worries.

With the future of their pizza business uncertain, the two business partners bought out the Lake Tahoe Bottle Shop, located at the corner of Pioneer Trail and U.S. Highway 50, about three years ago.

Now Carlsen is wondering if they’ll have to go through redevelopment a third time as the city plans for a hotel in the area and would like to turn the corner, where their liquor store now stands, into a display of public art.

But even with the questionable business future that lies ahead, Carlsen said he’s still in favor of redevelopment.

“My concern is that I’ll get muscled out by somebody larger. I’m a real small fish in this big ocean,” Carlsen said. “But you can see when you drive down the road that this town needs a face-lift. There is no reason why we shouldn’t have a Vail, Aspen or Jackson Hole type of a town. I just hope they compensate the business owners. Redevelopment is supposed to stimulate the local economy.”

While Carlsen recognizes the benefits redevelopment may bring when it’s completed, others blame it for failed businesses and dilapidated buildings.

Scott Vane, owner of Tee Shirt Shop Etc. at 1089 Park Ave., is not happy with Park Avenue redevelopment. He believes the city’s lack of communication with property owners, delays and false promises over the years have ruined his 20-year-old souvenir business.

Vane said he has been closing the store more often, choosing instead to remodel his home as a means of getting on with his life.

“Redevelopment has dragged on for so long. We’ve put our lives on hold for it and I really think we got the shaft,” he said. “The threat of eminent domain has just caused a blight in the area – no one wants to put any money into improvements just to have them torn down in a year. It looks like a ghetto around here, with weeds and broken windows.”

The city’s redevelopment manager Judith Von Klug believes Vane’s concerns about blight are exactly why redevelopment has become crucial to South Shore’s economic survival. Redevelopment has not caused the blight, rather redevelopment is being pursued because of the blight, she said.

“Redevelopment would have never have started in this area if it was doing well economically,” Von Klug said. “It began because businesses were failing and not investing. When you’re in a redevelopment area, it’s easy to point the finger at redevelopment as the cause for all your troubles – but if it had been a strong area in the first place, redevelopment would have never have been an option.”


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