This winter the Park Board is expected to sign off on a litany of future improvements to the buildings leased by Sea Salt Eatery and Sandcastle.
Roughly $3.7 million worth of upgrades have been identified and prioritized for the refractory at Minnehaha Falls Regional Park, which has been home to Sea Salt since 2005. The Park Board has designated $1.1 million and Sea Salt $800,000 (it has already spent $300,000 in previous years to upgrade the facility) to get the comprehensive overhaul started. The Park Board will be lobbying for state bonding money in the coming years to help complete the planned renovations.
The plan’s number one priority is to replace the building’s dilapidated roof.
“The roof is in dire need of repair,” said Paul May, an architect with Miller Dunwiddie Architecture who consulted on the project. “There’s nothing structurally serious, but it’s a building that has had a significant amount of use and it’s showing wear as time goes on.”
The other top priority is a comprehensive interior renovation and minor expansion of the 108-year-old building.
“Every part of the building is being renovated and improved,” said May. “We’re looking at reopening it up and reverting back to its original open pavilion character.”
To do that, the ceiling will be removed to reveal the original wood ceiling trusses, and four 10-foot tall glass roll-up garage doors along with six new glass doorways will be installed.
The bathrooms are also slated to be completely redone with heated floors.
Outside of the building, the Park Board has dedicated $20,000 to treat and preserve oak trees, and a new dedicated bike path is planned to help alleviate congestion between bikers and pedestrians on its east side.
Sea Salt plans to spend more than $100,000 for new stairways and expanded outdoor seating.
The Park Board is expected to approve a new 10-year lease agreement with Sea Salt before the current one expires at the end of the year. Under the proposed agreement, the Park Board receives 12 percent of Sea Salt’s gross sales, which have risen every year since it opened. Last year Sea Salt did about $2.5 million in gross sales, netting the Park Board just over $300,000.
Sandcastle is planning to build a covered patio overlooking Lake Nokomis with seating for at least 25 people. Overall 19 picnic tables will be added to the area around the restaurant, although not all of them will be covered.
“The covered seating is exceptionally important to people, and that it’s incorporated into the design in such a way that allows for more covered seats facing the lake is going to be really well received,” said Steffanie Musich, who served on the project’s Citizens Advisory Committee and will be taking over for retiring District 5 Commissioner Carol Kummer in 2014.
A canvas canopy measuring 20 feet by 30 feet will provide shade for the new patio. Also, the walking path next to Sandcastle will be altered to allow more room for patrons to wait in line for their food without disrupting pedestrian traffic in the busy area around the Lake Nokomis beach.