01/25/05 — Happy Store closed for now but may reopen

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Happy Store closed for now but may reopen

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on January 25, 2005 2:01 PM

The lights are on, but nobody's home at the Happy Store on Berkeley Boulevard.

During the day, construction workers huddle inside the convenience store, trying to get warm during a lunch break.

The gas pumps are gone, and black gas hoses poke out of a deep ditch in front of the store.

At night, fluorescent lights spotlight the bare shelves and empty walls inside the building.

A cigarette advertisement plastered on a window, and a sign offering money orders, are lonely reminders of the building's former activity.

Another sign, hand-written and scotch-taped on the door, says: Closed forever.

Though the Happy Store is closing, the city's inspection department has not received an application to demolish the building.

Instead, D.R. Mosley contractors are removing the old fuel tanks, and replacing them with new tanks. That's an indication, say city inspection officials, that the store will reopen under new ownership.

If there are plans to reopen the store, the city's planning department is unaware of them.

City Planning Director Randy Guthrie said that his department hadn't yet received any applications for a new business at that location.

At one time, when the city hoped to extend Royall Avenue, the store was slated for demolition.

But those plans were derailed last year by a breakdown in right-of-way talks with a railroad company.

The extension would have made an ordinary four-way intersection of the congested offset intersection on North Berkeley Boulevard.

It was part of a bigger plan to widen Berkeley north of the Martin Luther King Freeway.

The plan was to put the new part of Royall Avenue from Berkeley to Central Heights, extending across where the Happy Store is. That would have only eliminated eight or 10 feet from the right-of-way.

The railroad track runs alongside Royall. CSX Railroad was concerned about its right-of-way on Royall Avenue and on a proposed railroad crossing on the new part of Oak Forest Road.

Because it was a switching yard, the railroad company was worried about train delays and traffic problems.

The railroad company told the city that a bridge would need to be installed at that crossing, but that would have cost the city around $4 million.

Eventually there were no more alternatives to be discussed, and the talks between the city and the railroad company stopped.

Since the city and CSX railroad couldn't come to an acceptable agreement, the city decided to widen Berkeley Boulevard at Royall Avenue to New Hope Road.