Owner: Gopher motel to reopen in 3 months

by Michael Krieger

Sitting on the edge of Dinkytown, the Gopher Campus Motor Lodge has withstood vandals, thieves and drug dealers, along with appeals to shut it down forever.

But the owner remains determined to keep the business operational, and despite a three-year closure, the motel might soon reopen with a different name and new clientele.

Now called the University Inn, the newly remodeled building on the corner of 10th Avenue and Fourth Street Southeast will open in three months, said owner Dr. Elmer Salovich.

The inn will offer extended-stay rooms for visiting faculty, family members and others in the University area, Salovich said.

“It’s going to be geared specifically to the University,” he said.

The owner said he could not yet estimate the cost of the rooms, but said “it would probably be lower than the market.”

The motel is undergoing a $1 million renovation to upgrade its plumbing and electrical systems and to make improvements to the building’s exterior, Salovich said.

Also, Salovich said he wants to “erase the flavor of the Gopher Motel.

“We want to make it neighborhood friendly,” he said.

In the years before its closure, the police department received hundreds of 911 calls from the motor lodge, culminating in an April 1998 undercover drug raid.

In February 1999, the Minneapolis City Council asked the motel’s owner to either close for 60 days or pay a $200,000 fine. The owner said he decided to close for renovations, but the motel has been closed ever since.

Salovich said building improvements and new security provisions will help keep trouble from arising in the future.

Identification will be required before renting a room, and tenants must pay by credit card, Salovich said. “That will eliminate 90 percent of the bad people,” he said.

The Minneapolis Police Department will also offer suggestions on how to avoid a repeat of criminal activity at the motel.

“We had concerns in the past, with vagrants and people hanging out in the parking lot,” said Sgt. Kim Coughlin.

Coughlin said the department will conduct a survey of the building’s exterior and provide ideas on how to minimize crime.

These ideas can include removing comfortable places to sit outside and “lighting that doesn’t make it comfortable for people to stand there,” Coughlin said.

The program, called Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design, has been “extremely successful and productive” in the past, she said.

Once renovations are complete, city officials said, they need to approve the inn’s hotel license before it can reopen.

Clara Schmit-Gonzalez, deputy director of licenses and consumer services, said the inn’s license renewal has been postponed until the remodeling is finished.

“We would want to have everything inspected to make sure the systems were put in right,” she said.

After inspection, Schmit-Gonzalez said, the City Council will decide whether Salovich can reopen the inn.

“It sounds like he’s making improvements, but we are wanting to bring this to the council for a vote on the license,” she said.

Ward 2 City Council member Paul Zerby said he recently sent a letter admonishing the owner for slow progress on the renovation.

“He’s supposed to be done with the place,” Zerby said.

“I was out to visit it a few weeks back, and it did not look like much of anything was going on,” he said.

Melissa Bean, with the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association, said she simply wants the project completed.

“It needs to get resolved – I think that would make people happy,” she said.

Michael Krieger welcomes comments at [email protected]