La Michoacana Meat Market, a Houston-based grocery chain, has bought long-vacant land near the AMC Classic Galaxy 16 movie theater on South Valley Mills Drive and reportedly plans to open a store, local real estate agent Randy Reid said.

The chain for 16 years has operated a small shop in Parkdale shopping center at Bosque Boulevard at Valley Mills Drive. But it is less than a quarter the size of a 13,000-square-foot store planned on 1.76 acres near the theater and the vacant Ace Buffet and Grill building at 301 S. Valley Mills Drive, said Reid, who brokered the sale.

Acreage along that stretch of Valley Mills has remained in limbo since the late 1990s, when a 16-screen theater went up on a portion of the land. Speculation surfaced that restaurants soon would flock to the venue and that the old Precision National Plating plant that once made engine parts would become a brew pub, according to real estate sources.

All that changed when crews discovered chromium around the plant and in groundwater at Baylor University’s Hart-Patterson Track and Field Complex 3,000 feet away. The plant was razed down to its foundation, which is still visible, and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality started remediation efforts that included monitoring wells.

The TCEQ has said chromium found well below the surface poses no threat to humans “unless someone dug down to the groundwater and drank umpteen gallons of what was down there,” said Austin attorney Keith Hopson, who has represented Precision during the cleanup.

“They have been very successful in reducing the impacted area and have reduced the size of the plume tremendously,” Hopson said. “Some additional treatments are planned in the near future.

“I don’t think anything would prohibit development now. Keep in mind, the theater was constructed on the original property.”

The Precision National Plating Services Inc. facility operated from about 1960 to 1997, TCEQ spokesman Brian McGovern wrote in a statement.

“Soil and groundwater contamination have been delineated,” McGovern wrote. “Soil cleanup was completed in five areas in the former facility where there were no groundwater impacts in 2002, and some of these areas were subsequently developed for commercial use.”

Groundwater contamination remains and cleanup continues in other areas of the site, he said.

“Groundwater treatment and monitoring are still ongoing in areas where the groundwater contaminant plume is still present,” according to the statement.

A contractor for Precision mixed tons of iron sulfate into the soil in 2011, aiming for it to bind with the chromium to change it to a less mobile and less toxic form of chromium, Hopson said. Previously, the company paid to have soil removed and the aquifer flushed with treatment chemicals.

“The side of the road on which my for-sale sign is located has essentially been pronounced clean by the state of Texas and can be developed,” Reid said. “Where the foundation is, the state simply did not want that area disturbed. We’re waiting on the state green lighting that particular site, and I think we’re getting closer to being able to sell it all the time.”

Reid is marketing property near Precision Drive on the theater site, not far from the restaurants dotting Franklin Avenue, including Cheddar’s, Rosa’s Cafe, Chick-fil-A, LongHorn Steakhouse, Raising Cane’s and McDonald’s. He continues to seek prospects for a 1.37-acre site he considers ideal for restaurant use.

He said he is somewhat surprised Michoacana has not yet broken ground or announced its plans to build a store on South Valley Mills Drive.

Attempts to reach a company spokesperson were not successful. An employee of the local store who did not give her name said the store “stays busy,” and draws sizable crowds during the lunch hour. It serves as a meat market and purveyor of tacos, gorditas, menudo and other dishes.

The La Michoacana website says the chain’s larger sites have multiple departments, including meat, dairy, bakery, a taqueria, produce, grocery, health and beauty and Central and South America products. The chain was founded in 1986 and has grown to about 140 stores.

“The majority of the stores are in Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio,” according to the site. “But you will also find us in many small cities where Hispanics are working hard like Corpus Christi, Lufkin, Bryan and the Valley of Texas. We will never forget our origins nor that our main focus is our meats, fresh, juicy, prepared as our customers please and Hispanic meat cuts just as we like.”

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