Landmark Panda Inn to be Remodeled, Against a New Backdrop of Housing Units

Published : Monday, July 10, 2017 | 5:14 AM

A Pasadena landmark on East Foothill Blvd. that in 1973 was site where a Pasadena family launched their fortunes in what has become a $3 billion restaurant chain with over 1,900 stores worldwide will not be demolished, as some loyal patrons had feared.

Andrew and Peggy Cherng’s original Panda Inn at 3488 East Foothill Blvd. will instead be remodelled and backed up by a new housing project.

Plans are afoot to remodel the old one-story restaurant building, expand it by about 535 square feet, and then build a new multi-family residential complex consisting of two buildings with a total area of more than 239,000 square feet in the area behind the restaurant, which currently is made up of parking spaces.

The project will also include an exterior remodeling of the existing 11-story, 121,590 square foot office building beside the restaurant – it’s called the Gateway Metro Center – which the owners of Panda Inn also own.

The Pasadena City Council will discuss the project on Monday during its regular meeting, during which the City’s Planning and Community Development Department will present the full details of the project.

An Agenda Report from Planning and Community Development Director David Reyes showed that the project is now under the Predevelopment Plan Review process after LCRA Architects submitted the plan on behalf of the owners of the 4.3 acres of real estate that the site consists of.

Under the City’s Zoning Code, the project is classified as a development project that is of “community-wide significance” – since it exceeds the 50,000 square foot threshold and is considered to be of major importance to the City – and should be discussed at the City Council.

The Predevelopment Plan Review process coordinates the review among City staff, makes the applicants familiar with the regulations and procedures that apply to the project, and prevents significant investment in the design of the project without preliminary input from City staff.

The process also helps to identify issues that may arise during the application process, including community concerns and the project’s consistency with City regulations and policies.

In February, when City staff and the City’s Design Commission started visits on the project site, representatives of Andrew and Peggy Cherng, who own Panda Inn and the surrounding property on the southeast corner of East Foothill Blvd. and Halstead Street, said the owners were committed to having the original Panda Inn remain on the site to continue serving guests.

“We do not have any intentions to demolish the original Panda Inn,” the representatives reportedly said, quoting the owners.

As envisioned, when the project is completed, a remodeled Panda Inn restaurant will stand where it presently is standing, although occupying a much larger space, and behind it will stand two new buildings – a North building and a South building – that will house a total of 258 multi-family units. The two buildings will have a total area of 239,168 square feet.

The existing Gateway Metro Center office building, an 11-story structure, will have exterior remodeling work on the first and second floors, and the whole site will have 737 parking spaces, including subterranean parking for the existing office building, two levels of above-grade podium parking, one level of at-grade podium parking, and at-grade surface parking lots.

The project will still go through a Design Review as required for projects that cover more than 25,000 square feet of new construction.

According to the Planning and Community Development Department, a Design Review will likely analyze the scale, massing, materials and interplay of horizontal and vertical elements of the new construction; the quality of materials and finishes, the proportions of window/door openings, the modulation of building walls, shade and shadow; Landscaping, especially in the setbacks along the sidewalks-and screening of mechanical equipment; and views from the interior of the site and from elevations facing the interior.

City staff is expected to explain other major changes or issues related to the project at the City Council meeting.

The Cherngs established Panda Inn on the site in 1973 as part of their vision to “create timeless Mandarin and Szechwan dishes mixed with an innovative style.” In 1982, they built a second Panda Inn in Glendale and then quickly added the first quick service Panda Express location in the Glendale Galleria.

Aside from the Pasadena and Glendale branches, Panda Inn is also located in La Palma and in Ontario.

The affiliated Panda Express fast food chain now operates about 1,900 locations.

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