Nicha’s Comida Mexicana plans on moving its iconic South Side restaurant, but don’t worry — it’s not going far.
Originating more than 40 years ago, the Tex-Mex chain wants to relocate the flagship eatery to bigger digs with new features for patrons at 3331 Roosevelt Ave., near Mission San José.
The 7,800-square-foot site is a stone’s throw from its current home.
Arthur Garcia, president of Nicha’s Comida Mexicana, said he hopes construction will start this spring.
The fresh site will replace the existing 3,500-square-foot location at 3319 Roosevelt Ave., where original owners Gene and Dionisia “Nicha” Garcia transformed their business, Minit Taco, into Nicha’s in 1977.
Nicha’s has other locales on the Northwest Side and Live Oak, but Garcia and his family long wanted to enlarge the first eatery.
While the present space is landlocked, the latest spot is nearly 3 acres.
The property allows the South Side institution to offer more room and other amenities for diners, including a patio, balcony, party room, dedicated stage for live music, full-service bar and parking for 200 vehicles.
Instead of 136 customers, it’ll accommodate nearly 300.
“We have no room for growth,” Garcia said of the old address. “What we have now is a very compact dining room. We also needed more parking.”
Nicha’s currently serves beer and alcohol, but the expanded South Side location with a full bar will be better positioned to compete with the increasing number of restaurants and bars nearby, according to Garcia.
The city’s Historic and Design Review Commission granted conceptual approval to the expansion project in January 2020.
But the COVID-19 pandemic, among other factors, decelerated the approval processes required before construction.
The undertaking, including purchase of the new property, is estimated to cost about $4 million.
Last December, the City Council approved an agreement between the city, the Mission Drive-In Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone board, and the developer, R&A Garcia Properties.
Under the pact, the Mission Drive-In TIRZ will reimburse a maximum of $600,000 over six years for specific public improvements the Nicha’s project produces at the latest place.
Such betterments could include new public sidewalks or upgrades to existing sidewalks, enhancements to the public roadway and exterior lighting.
The TIRZ funds would also apply to planned demolition of existing structures at the future Nicha’s site — a vacant gas station and former four-bay garage.
In addition, TIRZ money would cover funds the developer spends on bike racks, which Garcia said would be installed at the relocation.
Garcia added the move provides neighbors and visitors a dining and drinking destination they “can just walk to from the missions or the Mission Reach.”
The venue will also have decorative elements meant to highlight the heritage of the South Side missions corridor.
“We are trying to get historical things into the building that will reflect the place and the history — things like the missions and Stinson (Airport) — things that make this the South Side,” Garcia said.
Reviewing the project in 2020, HDRC members applauded the conceptual renderings of the new site, saying the design would complement its surroundings.
It was then Mission San José Neighborhood Association board member Jane Henry gave support.
However, she had a few concerns, including incorporating more landscaping to act as a buffer, and building another barrier between the parking lot and residences.
“I know Nicha’s would be interested in helping to protect those neighbors,” she added.