The fate of the Gasthaus restaurant does not rest in the hands of city officials.

However, a proposed development at the site of the Gasthaus, 2720 N. Grandview Blvd., which will include a multi-tenant strip mall and a standalone restaurant, received a favorable review from the city's plan commission April 27 and could become a reality, pending future approval.

The commission voted unanimously to send preliminary plans for the project back to the developer, California-based Panda Restaurant Group, for revision and future presentation. Those plans will be reconsidered at a later plan commission meeting and could win preliminary approval, provided they are reworked in accordance with certain conditions.

The current proposal calls for the construction of a 9,800-square-foot strip mall featuring three unnamed retail spaces, a coffee shop with a drive-thru on the west end of the site and two restaurants on the east end, where Gasthaus sits at the corner of Silvernail Road and Grandview Boulevard.

A standalone 2,600-square-foot Panda Express restaurant, which would be built south of the mall and separated from it by a parking lot, would also have a drive-thru.

City staff had recommended denial of the those plans prior to the April 27 meeting. They cited 'land-use intensity' and increased traffic as their chief concerns.

Gasthaus gone?

According to City Planner Maria Pandazi, under the current proposal the Gasthaus would be razed in order to make room for the development.

The owner of the property is listed as the estate of Jack Weissgerber, a member of the well-known Weissgerber restaurateur family, who died in 2013. The other restaurants the family owns include the Golden Mast Inn on Okauchee Lake and Seven Seas in Hartland.

Jack's brother Hans Weissgerber said in a news release that ongoing issues with the estate 'left (the family) no choice but to consider a sale of the property.'

But, he added, 'we are still not sure if the Gasthaus will be sold or not,' and described the decision as one of the most difficult and emotional ones the family has had to make.

Mayor Shawn Reilly, the plan commission chairman, emphasized that the decision to sell the restaurant rested solely in the hands of the Weissgerber family.

'The city itself had no play or decision making in whether that building stays there or not,' he said. 'If the Weissgerbers want to sell this property, and the developer wants to purchase it, that's up to them.

'If the Weissgerbers don't want to continue to operate the restaurant, they don't have to and we can't require them to.'

Conditions for plans

Several commissioners said they liked the proposed development and the design of the buildings, but wanted a little more information about the plans before they would take action on them.

'Overall, I think it's heading in the right direction,' said Commissioner Mike Payne.

Officials asked that the plans be revised to meet certain conditions, such as a reduction in the total number of proposed restaurants (four) and that the corner of the property at Grandview Boulevard and Silvernail Road display a special architectural feature to highlight that intersection as a gateway into the city.

'The goal was to create a signature building that has a lot of character and quality,' said Henry Klover, the project's architect. He added he is 'more than happy' to work with city staff on the designs.

Plans for the project have been discussed for at least several months, Pandazi said, and have already undergone at least one revision.

Some objections

City staff voiced some objections to the project at the meeting, and specifically mentioned concerns about the land-use intensity of the development and issues stemming from increased traffic.

A planning staff report said: 'The land-use intensity, including multiple drive-thrus, and the large multi-tenant building will be too intensive for this site, and could negatively impact the surrounding properties.'

A report from the city's public works department cited similar concerns, saying: 'The increase in traffic congestion on Silvernail Road, caused by this development, will negatively impact the businesses on the north side of Silvernail Road.'

Commissioner Peter Bartels, an alderman whose district includes the Gasthaus site, said he is concerned about increased traffic there if the project is ultimately approved.

Mike May, a traffic engineer working with the developer, said studies he conducted of the project's potential traffic impact indicated that effects of traffic generated by the development would not be negative.

Added Reilly: 'I think the developer has worked very hard to address concerns.'

A time line for the submission and review of the revised plans was not specified at the April 27 meeting. The project is not listed on the agenda for the next plan commission meeting May 3.

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