Panda Express looks to expand to Owatonna - Owatonna MN: Owatonna Peoples Press

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Panda Express looks to expand to Owatonna

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Posted: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 5:30 pm | Updated: 10:19 am, Thu Mar 28, 2013.

OWATONNA — Owatonna is one step closer to having another Chinese restaurant after a meeting of the Owatonna Planning Commission on Tuesday night.

During the meeting, the planning commission held a public hearing for a conditional use permit that would allow for the construction of a Panda Express in Owatonna. The restaurant would be located in the vacant lot directly east of McDonald’s along West Frontage Road near Wal-Mart.

“City code requires a conditional use permit for any drive-thru restaurant, so they were holding their public hearing on the conditional use permit to construct the drive-thru restaurant on that lot,” said Greg Kruschke, community development specialist for the City of Owatonna.

The lot has been targeted for use by a restaurant or another commercial space for some time, and Kruschke said the addition of Panda Express is a good fit for the area.

“We had that lot identified for a restaurant or for high commercial use that needed visibility, and this certainly fits the bill for that,” Kruschke said.

There was no opposition to the conditional use permit during the public hearing. Kruschke said members of the planning commission had questions about the traffic flow in the area.

“Everything flows as it should through there, and it’s designed to accommodate traffic for that lot,” Kruschke said.

Justen Cassidy, studio designer with the Hengst Streff Bajko Architects and Engineers, the designers for the space based in Phoenix, Ariz., said the building will be about 2,200 square feet.

“There will be outdoor patio seating, there will be about 24 seats outside of the building,” Cassidy said. “It’s a pretty forward-looking building with relevance to a fast-food restaurant. It’s a very bright building.”

Cassidy said he’s looking forward to getting going on the construction. The firm he works for handles about 70 percent of Panda Express’ new buildings, he said, noting that they are building about 100 per year.

Though approved by the planning commission, the conditional use permit still has to be approved by the Owatonna City Council. The council will vote on the permit during its meeting on April 2. Cassidy said that once the permit is approved, they will look to break ground as soon as possible.

Construction is expected to take about three months.

Reach reporter Al Strain at 444-2376 or follow him on

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  • kaitlynn55 posted at 9:40 am on Sat, Apr 6, 2013.

    kaitlynn55 Posts: 1

    A couple years ago I contacted Chipotle and asked if they would consider coming to Owatonna. Their response was that although they are always looking to expand, they would not be interested in Owatonna because there is no major mall near by. there isn't enough traffic to make it go.I don't think a Noodles or Chipotle is in Owatonna's future.

  • FbltGuy posted at 9:54 am on Thu, Mar 28, 2013.

    FbltGuy Posts: 254

    I agree. The city isn't able to pass judgment on whether it's a good business plan, just on whether or not the building can go where they want it. Frankly, I think this would be a huge problem for the other, smaller Chinese places in Owatonna since their locations are impossible to see and aren't "fast" food in that you have to come in and eat there or place a take-out order. Don't be surprised if they go out of business.

  • kjszyman posted at 9:00 am on Thu, Mar 28, 2013.

    kjszyman Posts: 1

    I am excited to hear that new "fast" food place is coming I love panda express but agree with purplepeopleeater that noodles or chipotle would be higher on my list of choices to come to owatonna!

  • PurplePeopleEater posted at 10:14 pm on Wed, Mar 27, 2013.

    PurplePeopleEater Posts: 12

    I really have to wonder whether these people have ever been to Owatonna. East Wind Buffet has outstanding Chinese food and they are just down the block. Most people expect to see Panda Express in a Food Court at the mall. There are a number of food concepts that could make it here (Chipotle, Noodles), but we have good Chinese and Mexican food establishments.


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