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.”
No more smoking on Hennepin County property Downtown
Hennepin County’s tobacco ban on county-owned property will go into effect on July 1.
The policy, passed by the county board in March, applies to county-owned buildings and grounds; parking lots and facilities; in county-owned vehicles and equipment as well as in personal vehicles on country property.
The ban includes chewing tobacco.
Instead of happening all at once, the ban is being phased in. On Aug. 1 the ban will extend to Hennepin County libraries. On Sept. 1, the ban will reach suburban Hennepin County facilities. Finally, on Oct. 1, sites where Hennepin County is the single leasing tenant will be tobacco-free.
Hennepin County spokeswoman Lisa Fleming said the ban is being phased in to allow county crews time to remove ash cans and post no smoking signs.
Nice Ride grows, expands to St. Paul
The Nice Ride bicycle rental program that started in Minneapolis last year is growing not just in Minneapolis, but across the river and into St. Paul.
In mid-June, crews began installing some of the 43 new bike-sharing stations planned for 2011. Once those stations are online, the Nice Ride program will expand from 73 stations and 700 bikes to 113 stations and a 1,200-bicyle fleet.
Nice Ride Executive Director Bill Dossett said the expansion includes 20 new stations in St. Paul, 20 new stations in Minneapolis and three new stations at the University of Minnesota.
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman celebrated the expansions by biking from Minneapolis to St. Paul on June 27.
All Nice Ride rentals require a subscription. The subscriptions range from 24-hour passes for $5 to a one-year passes for $60. Trips over 30 minutes are charged an escalating fee. The bike docks are solar-powered and accept credit cards.
For more information about the bike-sharing program Nice Ride, visit its website at niceridemn.org.