Category Archives: Fuji Ya

Fuji Ya site

The Wave … time for Public comment on the EAW


Wednesday, September 6, 7:30 pm

Mill City Museum, 704 Second Street South

The Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) provides information regarding the potential environmental effects of the The Wave Project AT 304 – 320 First Street South by Omni Investment. The Project includes 38 residential units, a 9,400 sq. ft. spa, and a 9,600 sq. ft. restaurant on the site of the former Fuji Ya Restaurant and vacant land to the west owned by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. The Project is within the St. Anthony Falls Historic District and, as proposed, will likely have substantive effects on historic and archeological ruins.

Copies of the EAW are available for review at the Minneapolis Central Library located at 300 Nicollet Mall in Downtown Minneapolis, in the office of the City Planning Division at 210 City Hall and at (note: the EAW is 22 MB and the archaeological report is 19 MB). Paper copies of this EAW and a compact disk of the report can also be provided upon request to the EAW Contact Person (refer to contact information below).

Public comments on the EAW must be submitted to the EAW Contact Person within the 30-day comment period, which ends at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, September 13, 2006.

The City of Minneapolis will conduct a Public Comment Meeting on the EAW on Wednesday, September 6. All are invited to attend and comment on the adequacy of the EAW.

Planning Division staff will present the EAW and the comments on the document to the Zoning and Planning Committee of the City Council at a later date. Subsequently, the City Council will act on the Committee’s recommendation.

EAW Contact Person:

Michael Orange, Minneapolis Community Planning and Economic Development Department-Planning Division, City Hall Room 210, 350 S. 5th Street, Minneapolis, MN 55415-1385, by telephone at 612-673-2347, or E-mail. Email, emailed attachments in Word, and discs containing Word documents are preferred.

Evaluation of the 1990 St. Anthony Falls Interpretive Plan

The St. Anthony Falls Heritage Board is a little-known
organization with representatives from all levels of
government charged with overseeing activities in the
St. Anthony Falls Heritage Zone, which is more or less
the same as the historic district. They commissioned
this study from consultants at the 106 Group to
evaluate their 1990 plan for interpreting the history
of the falls area for the public. Nicollet Island
comes up quite a bit, most notably as a key site for a
high priority item: interpreting the ethnic history of
the area.

Downtown Journal: Park Board Delays Sale of Fuji Ya

In an article titled “Breaking the Wave? Park Board delays completing sale for riverfront condo” writer Sarah McKenzie describes how the Park Board has delayed sale of the Fuji Ya property after earlier approving a contract for its sale and spending money on the lobbying effort to get a special state law passed to allow the sale to go forward.

» The Wave, a high-end condo project slated for Downtown’s riverfront, is encountering some choppy waters.

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has put the project in a holding pattern, tabling a motion to finalize the sale of the former Fuji-Ya restaurant site, which it owns, to Heritage Development, a developer based in Little Canada.

Despite signing off on a purchase agreement in February to sell the prime riverfront parcel to Heritage for $2.7 million, the Board voted to hold off completing the sale at its Dec. 7 meeting. In order to finalize the sale, the Board needs to direct its attorney to file with Hennepin County District Court.

Park Board President Jon Olson said Commissioners plan to hold another public hearing on the sale of the Fuji-Ya site in January. The site is in front of the River West condos, near the corner of South 1st Street and 5th Avenue South, southeast of the 3rd Avenue Bridge.

The Mill Ruins Park is nearby, tucked along the riverfront near the Stone Arch Bridge.

In addition to the standard city review process, The Wave would be subject to approval from the Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission since the site falls within the St. Anthony Falls Historic District.

The developers behind The Wave are waiting for the sale to go through before going through the city’s development approval process. Michael Moriarty, president of Heritage Development, did not return a phone call for comment.

The January hearing gives opponents of the sale another opportunity to state their case.

Park Board Commissioner Bob Fine … said under the current arrangement, the Park Board doesn’t stand to gain much from the sale.

“I think we’re better off keeping the land,” Fine said. “The Wave is still waving.”

Under the proposal, the Wave would feature 36 high-end condos and a restaurant in a refurbished Fuji-Ya space. At its highest point, it would rise 11 stories.

The developer would set aside parking and public restrooms for park users, Olson said.

Heritage has teamed up with Jeff Arundel, a local rock musician, on the project. Arundel had the high bid for the site when the Park Board issued a request for proposals.

The Park Board acquired the Fuji Ya site in the 1980s as part of the West River Road expansion. «

Read original article at the Downtown Journal web site.

Fuji-Ya Site Now Being Developed by Heritage Development

Suprise! The Park Board recently sold the Fuji-Ya site to Jeff Arundel and Columbia Development to build a condo development with parking on the first level to be leased to the Park Board. The general shape of the building met with the Park Board’s approval.

Now it seems that somehow Arundel and Columbia are out of the picture. Did they turn a quick sale to someone else right after buying it from the Park Board?

From a July 15 story by Star Tribune business columnist Neal St. Anthony titled “On business: Low-profile developer ready to make waves”:

The residential building boom downtown on the Mississippi River is going to get even bigger if “The Wave” washes ashore.

A low-profile Little Canada developer next week will present to Minneapolis planners a $55 million condominium development project north of the 3rd Avenue bridge on the west bank of the river that also would incorporate the abandoned Fuji-Ya restaurant site.

State Bonding BIll Allows Land Sale by Park Board, Requires Split of Proceeds

The recently passed state bonding bill (House File 3, the Omnibus Capital Investment Bill) provides the following with respect to allowing the Park Board to sell the piece of land that the former Fuji-Ya restaurant sits on. The text of the House Research Bill Summary is below and at this link. Full text of the bill with Fuji Ya section 48 at line 41.12.

“Sale of Fuji Ya property; reuse of proceeds. Permits the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board to sell a state bond-financed property, known as the Fuji Ya site, originally acquired as part of the Great River Road project, and use the proceeds of the sale for another project on the site and nearby. If the Park Board enters into an agreement with the commissioner of finance, the Park Board may use $750,000 of the net proceeds of the sale to prepay a 99-year lease for a parking facility with at least 85 parking stalls. It then evenly divides the remaining net proceeds between the state and the Park Board, directing the Park Board to use the money on capital improvements included in the “Above the Falls” master plan. Requires the state to get at least $544,000. Requires the Park Board to use at least $25,000 for predesign and design of the East Phillips Cultural and Community Center.”

Bob Smith – No Force, No Fraud: A Dream Destroyed for Nothing

Bob Smith writes in his blog No Force, No Fraud about the shameful demise at the hand of the Park Board of the Fuji Ya restaurant:

Travel back again to 1968 and a small remarkable story related to that big wilderness that was the eastern downtown Minneapolis area leveled by urban renewal. Reiko Weston had operated her Japanese restaurant Fuji-Ya downtown on LaSalle since 1959. She dreamed of a restaurant near running water, a proper setting for a traditional Japanese restaurant. Somehow, she discovered and bought a property on the riverfront, to the east beyond the vast wasteland, on 1st street, a street that really went nowhere, south from the 3rd avenue bridge. Understand that the Minneapolis riverfront was run-down and undeveloped at that time, with ruins that were used by vagrants.

Reiko Weston saw the beauty of the location, hired an architect from Japan, and built a restaurant similar to many in Japan… plain on the outside, but offering a 250-seat, two level dining experience that included wonderful views of the river, the lock, and the famed old stone arch railroad bridge. The restaurant was constructed over, and integrated into, an old stone ruin. Fuji-Ya sat alone, unpretentious, but presenting to its diners a view that most of us had ignored or not even noticed as we busily drove nearby. She chose a place others had missed… she recognized a beauty we hadn’t, and gave us a seat from which to learn and appreciate.

Over the next 20 years, for the mere price of a fine meal, the Fuji-Ya offered thousands of us that experience served as only the Japanese do. For me, it was like an hour transported back to Kyoto, but it was also much more; it was a discovery of the riverfront itself.

Looking back from now, I wonder what impetus the presence of the Fuji-Ya had toward producing the much later riverfront “renewal”. There is no doubt that Reiko Weston led many of us there, and risked her livelihood and effort to lure us down a street that offered nothing else.

This is a story that deserves a happy ending, and Reiko deserved an honored place in city history. What actually happened was quite the opposite, and is a story that we MUST learn from if we hope to ever return to a society in which individuals are free from the arbitrary crushing power of government.

In 1987, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board took most of the Fuji-Ya’s parking, using their power of eminent domain. Reiko died in 1988, after 20 years on the riverfront. It’s not hard for me to believe, as her daughter does, that the battle with the city led to her fatal heart attack at age 59. Doug Grow of the StarTribune recently wrote of that time and the pathetic continuing problems of the Park Board.

The Fuji-Ya building still stands, overlooking the river, it’s broad windows covered with plywood. It has been Park Board property for 15 years now, and they have done nothing with it. It finally cost them $3.5 million in court, and has returned nothing, but it cost Reiko, her relatives, and her employees their dream. Tai San, chief chef, had been in the Fuji-Ya kitchen for 31 years. Reiko’s daughter Carol was forced to finish the battle with the city after her mother’s death.

Skyway News: Park Board floats state deal to save riverfront townhome project

by Scott Russell
»Plans to convert the old Fuji-Ya restaurant site on the Downtown riverfront into 15 to 18 townhomes hinge on an amendment pending at the Legislature.

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board owns the land and is negotiating to sell it to Jeff Arundel of Columbia Mills Development for $2.5 million. It will require a profit-sharing plan with the state.

The Park Board acquired the Fuji-Ya property in the late 1980s, part of the West River Road expansion, a Park Board memo said. The Board needed the Fuji-Ya parking lot, not the restaurant, but was forced to condemn the building and buy out the business because the owners said they could not survive without the parking. The business buyout added $3 million in unanticipated public costs.

The Park Board used state tax-exempt bonds to buy the Fuji-Ya property, located between West River Road and 1st Street South, in front of River West Apartments. Brian Rice, Park Board attorney and lobbyist, said current law would give the sale proceeds to the state.

That would effectively kill the condo project. Don Siggelkow, the Park Board’s general manager for administration and finance, said if the Park Board doesn’t benefit from the sale, its Columbia Mills contract allows it to cancel the deal.

Rice is pushing an amendment at the House of Representatives that divides the money three ways, he said. First, Columbia Mills would use at least $750,000 to build an 85-stall parking ramp along the river; the Park Board would get a 99-year, $1 lease. The Park Board needs more river parking, especially if it reopens the historic headrace above St. Anthony Falls, eliminating an existing parking lot., he said.

The state and Park Board would split the remaining $1.75 million Rice said. The state would use its $875,000 for its bonding bill; the Park Board would use most or all of its remaining money to buy more riverfront land.

If the townhouses are built, they will have a prime view of St. Anthony Falls, and a prime pricetag. According to a Park Board memo, Arundel plans to build units averaging 3,200 square feet, with a median sale price of $1.5 million.

Legislators might be less disposed to a new deal after reading a Feb. 19 Star Tribune column, which suggested the Park Board is getting its comeuppance for its greed. Columnist Doug Grow said the Park Board made Fuji-Ya owner Reiko Weston “miserable because it lusted for her land.” He wrote that Weston’s daughter believes the stress it created eventually led to her mother’s fatal 1988 heart attack.

Patty Hillmeyer, Park Board Commissioner at the time, disputed Grow’s interpretation. The competition for Asian restaurants had built up, she said, and the $3 million-plus Weston received for the business was a decent price. “We didn’t give Rieko the heart attack,” Hillmeyer said. “We tried to work with Reiko, but she wanted out.”

Rice also took exception with the Grow column, but said it was anyone’s guess how it would affect the Park Board’s lobbying efforts at the Legislature.

Even if the amendment passes, Columbia Mills condos face historic preservation challenges. The Fuji-Ya building is not part of the nearby Mill Ruins Park, but it does sit on top of the old Columbia Mill that occupied the site from 1882 to 1941.

The city’s Heritage Preservation Commission and the State Historic Preservation Office would review the project. It would need to get various city approvals, just as any other development.

In the event the historic preservation issues prevent development, the $2.5 million purchase agreement has an escape clause that allows Arundel out of the deal.«

Star Tribune: The Park Board has lost its way

NetLets, March 4, 2005
»Doug Grow’s Feb. 20 column about the original Fuji Ja building is evidence of the troubles that have been plaguing the Park and Recreation Board for a number of years. While I agree with Grow that the manner in which the building was acquired from the Weston family was unnecessarily rude and untimely, I disagree even more strongly with the decision to sell the piece to a developer.

I worked in that building for two years when I was a district supervisor in the recreation department. Each day coming to work was a joy, to be at my desk while watching the herons along the riverbanks and the mist rising from St. Anthony Falls, to walk down into the lower levels where the foundations of the mill were preserved and feel the sense of history and the mystery of time, all of this was a gift. Years earlier I had sat on pillows and dined in the graciousness of that enchanting restaurant. I believe that one of the most beautiful views and recreation experiences in the city is right where my desk was, and I believed then as now that that spot should be belong to the public.

The Park Board has lost its way. It’s about to sell one of the most valuable pieces of real estate in the city for unneeded housing, real estate that belongs to you and me, real estate that Reiko Weston developed to focus our attention on the greatest water resource in the country, the river, and the reason we have a city here at all, the falls of St. Anthony. That this perfect vantage point would be sold is unthinkable. It belongs to us, the citizens of Minneapolis and the metropolitan area, and the board should not be allowed to release it for someone’s private gain. Doing so is contrary to the history and purpose of the Park and Recreation Board for the past 122 years. Even tiny little pieces of park land by freeways have never been sold (although in the early ’70s a tiny piece by the highway was traded to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for a much larger and better piece of land to help make a bigger park in a much needed location).

Open space is precious in a city. You don’t sell public land. Especially not land within 75 feet of a magnificent natural and historical resource.

As precinct caucuses and endorsing conventions approach, I hope many people will take time to look at this property, imagine the view from those boarded-up second-story windows, remember what Reiko Weston’s vision was when she built that restaurant and speak out against the sale of this little gem that is so tied to our cultural legacy. Let the candidates know how you feel. The board’s action in taking the land may have been misguided. But we can honor Reiko Weston now by showing that we value the experience she created for us, and plan to maintain it always.«

Susan Lane, Minneapolis.