For the past several years, the former Fuji Ya has been caught up in litigation. Now, with the litigation over, there is an effort to give it a new life. The following article by Nick Halter was published in the July 4, 2011 issue of the Downtown Journal.


It’s been 21 years since Fuji Ya closed the doors of its restaurant that looked out over St. Anthony Falls and the Stone Arch Bridge.

While the site, at 420 1st St. on the west side of the river, has been the subject of many different ideas over the years, the Minneapolis Parks Foundation recently began an effort to develop the property.

The foundation’s vision is fairly broad, but one of its board members, Paul Reyelts, said the development would be dedicated for public use and be financed through a public-private partnership.

He said the site could be both a vibrant space for the roughly 750,000 visitors who pass through the area each year, and also a revenue generator for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, which owns the property.

“We think that if it’s properly developed, this site could be the major downtown gateway to the river and to the Stone Arch Bridge,” Reyelts said.

The next steps for the Parks Foundation include hiring professionals to come up with a development plan; convening a group of citizens to gather ideas; collecting market data; finding funding partners and then presenting preliminary plans to the Park Board.

The Fuji Ya site has been vacant since 1990. The last proposal for the site came in 2004, when a developer had plans to build a condo project called The Wave. Those plans fell through after the Park Board decided not to sell the land.

Park Board Assistant Superintendent Don Siggelkow said it may be possible to renovate the existing building on the property, but the structure is in “really, really poor condition.”

“It may not be [able to be renovated], just because the [small] size may not warrant the investment,” he said. “But I don’t think any doors are closed on that. I don’t think anybody has any preconceived notions.”