Out with the old and in with the new.
Eastman Credit Union plans to build a three-story branch location for banking operations and offices at the site of the former Hometown Buffet restaurant in Longview.
Eastman, a banking firm based in Kingsport, Tennessee, was granted a zoning variance Tuesday by a unanimous vote of the city of Longview’s Zoning Board of Adjustment.
Eastman needed the variance to meet its design plans, which call for a three-story building with a parapet — measuring a total of 55 feet, 4 inches high, architect Luther Kane said.
Located at 2026 W. Loop 281 at the entrance to Pine Tree Junior High School, the former Hometown Buffet exterior was remodeled to become a Wei Asian Buffet, but it never opened.
The former Hometown Buffet was partially demolished in 2013. Two years later, a Dallas family was still working to revive the 8,800-square-foot site into a Wei Asian Buffet restaurant, but the business never opened a Longview location.
Liang-Longview LLC has owned the restaurant property since July 2012, according to Gregg Appraisal District records.
Eastman wants to demolish the site and use it as the parking lot area for its branch building, to be constructed on the open-field property immediately east of the restaurant site, Kane said.
City ordinances allow three-story structures in general retail-zoned areas, but each floor must measure no more than 11 feet, 6 inches without a variance.
Without a variance, Eastman would have been maxed out at a height of 34 feet, 6 inches, which would have created “several building” issues for the overall design, according to the credit union’s application.
The higher floor-to-ceiling heights will better accommodate banking operations on the first floor and office spaces on the second and third floors, along with the air conditioning systems, King said. They also will reduce cramped conditions or acoustical problems, he said.
A 20-foot landscaped buffer with a 6-foot privacy fence are planned between the new credit union branch and adjacent residential properties. Also, 12-foot Eastern red cedar, pine and Nellie R. Stevens holly trees will be installed, and Eastman intends to preserve as many of the existing trees as possible, City Planner Angela Choy said.
Eastman Credit Union has existing branch locations in the northeast and southeast sectors of Longview, so the new location will expand its operations to the west.
Choy added that current ordinances governing building heights are “a little antiquated” and that they are being reviewed as part of the ongoing Unified Development Code process.