Regents meeting to cover construction projects

Discussion is to include making way for the new stadium and renovations.

Yelena Kibasova

The Board of Regents will meet today to discuss a handful of construction projects that might be launched within the next few months.

Administators will present final project proposals and regents will make their final decision on a University Avenue real estate purchase needed to make room for the new stadium project and the stabilization of a historic University hall.

Peking Garden Restaurant
The board will take action on the purchase of 2324 University Ave. S.E., whose main tenant is the Peking Garden Restaurant.

According to information from the regents, the University plans to demolish the building to use the property to relocate Huron Boulevard and Washington Avenue Southeast.

The road relocations are part of the development of the football stadium and a medical research building.

“It’s a matter of creating a site sufficiently large for the football stadium project and then the necessary relocation of roads in a way that accommodates the ongoing level of expected traffic,” said Sue Weinberg, University director of real estate.

The University is to pay $1.4 million in cash to the property owner, but Louis Lau, head manager of the Peking Garden Restaurant, said he’s unlikely to see much of that money.

“We’re going to lose money on this deal,” Lau said. “Think about how much it costs to start a business like this, probably a good half-million dollars, and who’s going to pay me a half-million dollars? I don’t think anyone will.”

Weinberg said the University is obligated to pay relocation costs to the restaurant, and the issue is in discussion with both parties’ attorneys.

Peking Garden Restaurant has been on University Avenue for 15 years, Lau said.

The proposed closing date is on or before Aug. 31, but Lau said no one has given him an exact date.

“We established a business over there, we got recognized over there, and now, all of a sudden, we have to throw it away,” Lau said. “I don’t like it. I’d like to stay there.”

Lau said he plans to relocate to St. Paul near Snelling Avenue but hopes the University will realize the benefit of the restaurant’s reputation and help relocate near the new stadium.

“Anytime that there is a game (or) event, my place is packed,” he said. “There’s a reason for it.”

Weinberg said that as far as she knows, Peking Garden already has found a new location.

“We asked that if they wanted relocation assistance beyond the monetary payment that they should let us know, and no one has gotten back to us to let us know that they’d like to look at a different location,” she said.

The University would hire a relocation specialist to work with the restaurant, Weinberg said, if that is what it wants.

Cheng Wan, owner of Jasmine Express Chinese Restaurant down the street from Peking Garden, said the move is an opportunity for other restaurants in the area.

“(Of) the loyal customers for Peking Garden, probably over 80 percent will not go to (their new) location,” he said.

Wan said his restaurant might not benefit from new customers as much as others in the area because his restaurant focuses more on express food while Peking Garden is more of a sit-down restaurant.

Folwell Hall exterior stabilization
Folwell Hall has been on the University’s East Bank since 1906. The past 100 years have taken their toll on the building, and, according to information from the regents, the hall is in “various stages of failure.”

After an inspection of the building, specialists recommended working on the building’s exterior brick, terra-cotta and stone and its chimney and flat roof, among other things. The study also revealed that the systems keeping moisture and water from penetrating the building are failing.

Michael Perkins, associate vice president of Capital Planning and Project Management, said Folwell is one of the University’s four most historic buildings.

“It has not received, probably, the time and attention to ongoing maintenance over the last 100 years, and it’s tired and it’s wearing out on the outside,” Perkins said. “If we don’t address it along with Northrop Ö it’s going to cost more tomorrow and a lot more the next year.”

The renovation plans for Folwell were approved by the Board of Regents in March 2000, but no funding was secured for the project.

“That need doesn’t go away because it is one of our significant classroom buildings, and it is basically the home of a lot of CLA language programs,” Perkins said.

The total cost of the project is estimated at $15.5 million and is set for completion in fall 2008. If the project is approved, construction will begin this summer or fall.

Perkins said the plan for Folwell, as well as for Northrop Auditorium, is to assess its “programatic” future and realize how to best use the buildings.