The following article by Eric Best was published in the Southwest Journal on November 25, 2015.
Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board commissioners took another step in a longstanding effort to demolish the Fuji-Ya building in order to build a new riverfront park.
The board’s Administration & Finance Committee approved Nov. 18 an agreement with
Minneapolis-based MacDonald & Mack Architects to provide services to demolish the building, having long been considered a blight on the Mississippi riverfront. The Fuji-Ya building, which has sat vacant for nearly 25 years, could be demolished as early as 2017 or even sooner as part of the board’s overhaul of the Central Riverfront Regional Park, dubbed Water Works.
The two-story building at 401 1st St. S. opened in 1968 as an iconic Japanese restaurant, but, following the death of founder Reiko Weston, the Park Board bought it in 1990. The building was built on top of the Bassett Saw Mil, a contributing resource to the St. Anthony Falls Historic District.
The board will selectively demolish the building to move forward with Water Works, a landmark project under its RiverFirst initiative to transform the riverfront near downtown Minneapolis into a destination park.
Commissioners adopted a concept for the park in September and are currently working on fundraising agreements to pay for the approximately $27 million project.
Tom Evers, executive director of the Minneapolis Parks Foundation, a nonprofit that handles philanthropic efforts for the board, told The Journal at the time that the organization is looking to raise about half the total cost. The nonprofit has already raised $3.5 million from philanthropic sources, which the board will discuss in its Dec. 2 meeting. The full board will also take up the nearly $50,000 services agreement during that meeting.
The first construction phase is expected to begin in 2017 around the time the board demolishes the Fuji-Ya building. The board anticipates Water Works to be completed in 2023.
“We’ve been waiting around a long time for this one,” said Commissioner Anita Tabb, whose district includes the future Water Works site. “Let the games begin.”
Read the Journal article…