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Continued: Former Fuji-Ya will yield its riverfront spot to even older landmarks

  • Article by: BILL MCAULIFFE , Star Tribune
  • Last update: January 14, 2014 - 12:11 PM

DeLaittre said the Water Works site is a complex one geologically, historically and culturally, with layers of use going back to the Dakota, who regarded an island in what is now the central riverfront Spirit Island. The island was removed during construction of the Upper St. Anthony Lock and Dam, which itself could be closed by Congress due to declining use and because leaving it open could allow destructive species of carp to advance upriver.

The Park Board condemned the Fuji-Ya parking lot in 1987 to make room for West River Parkway and has long been blamed for causing the restaurant to close in 1990.

Reiko Weston bought the land in 1961 for $20,000 and moved what had been a popular downtown restaurant — the first Japanese restaurant in the city — to what was then a dim and lonely stretch of riverfront. She hired a Japanese architect to design the distinctive, two-story restaurant, and brought a chef from Tokyo to run the city’s first sushi bar. Weston died in 1988 and, after extensive litigation, the Minneapolis Park Board bought out the Weston family for $3.5 million in an out-of-court settlement.

Despite its downtown riverfront location, prominent views and historical significance, the property hasn’t been used for much more than parking in the past few years.

Efforts to build a low-rise condo on the site were embroiled in legal controversy.

Bruce Chamberlain, assistant parks superintendent for planning, said last week that the distinctive, two-story Japanese-style building where Fuji-Ya operated for 22 years, has been deemed historically significant.

A consultant will examine it so its “architectural integrity isn’t lost to history,” he said. “Unfortunately the building is in such disrepair it’s not salvageable.”


Bill McAuliffe • 612-673-7646

  • related content

  • The Minneapolis central riverfront as it appeared in 2013.

  • The Minneapolis central riverfront as it appeared in 1950.

  • The timeless elegance of Fuji Ya, in a 1982 photo


    Go to:, under current projects.

    Tuesday: Park Board public meeting on ideas for the Central Riverfront makeover, 6 p.m. at 2117 West River Road.

    Through Thursday: Take an online survey about the Water Works site: mplsparksfounda

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