When workers begin reconstructing the Interstate 35W bridge, another project just down the block might finally be coming to an end.
For more than eight-and-a-half years, the former site of the Gopher Campus Motor Lodge on the corner of 10th Avenue and Fourth Street Southeast has been closed for business.
A slew of criminal activity on the premises in the late '90s and pressure from the Minneapolis City Council led the motel's then-owners, Dr. Elmer Salovich and Larry Hopfenspirger, to close the business in 1999.
Following the closure, Salovich, an adjunct assistant professor in the University's orthopedic surgery department, notified the city he planned to renovate the building and reopen as an extended-stay hotel, according to city documents.
Since that time, the old Gopher Motel - now the University Inn - has had more than $1 million in renovations, but has remained closed to guests, Salovich said.
Several publications, including a 2002 Daily article, quoted Salovich as saying the hotel would be completed in a matter of months; those months have since turned into years.
This week, Salovich provided a specific target date for the hotel's opening: Oct. 15.
Melissa Bean, executive director of the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association said the site has been relatively quiet.
"I can't understand business-wise why it would make sense to hold onto a place like that, empty," Bean said.
Stacy Hinkemeyer, an employee of Salovich's who has been prepping the hotel for its reopening for the past year, said part of the delay was the result of the hotel losing its general contractor.
"When I came in here about a year ago, it looked like everybody had picked up and left one day," Hinkemeyer said. "The general contractor went out of business."
Hinkemeyer also said Salovich "is just busy constantly" with his medical practice, which has slowed the process.
Both Hinkemeyer and Salovich denied that repairing repeatedly broken windows has added to the start-up delays. Salovich did estimate, however, that he had spent $10,000 on replacement glass because of the vandalism problem.
Security cameras, a fence and planned landscaping will hopefully help combat the problem, he said.
Salovich said "something's always been going on" with the hotel over the years, but "it just hasn't been open for business." He said while renovations were a major reason for closing, he also closed "to get rid of any kind of reputation it had before."
Salovich said the hotel will cater to the University and guests of the institution.
"It's more of an extended stay," he said. "Every room is self-contained. The kind of clientele we want are people that have a connection to the University of Minnesota. We're not aiming for a party type of environment."
Salovich said the hotel would have new management.
When the hotel opened its doors to The Minnesota Daily on Wednesday, a tour revealed a nearly finished - but nearly furniture-less - hotel.
"We have a lot of major landscaping going on in the next couple of weeks," he said.
Salovich said the only potential hold up he could foresee would be a problem with the new furniture.
New hallway carpeting was still protected with a plastic runner. Walls were unpainted. Beds had been delivered to most rooms, but many still lay on the floor, wrapped in plastic. Workers were finishing installing the security system, and exterior glass was broken, yet again.
"Frat boys seem to think that golf balls make it over the building. They don't," Hinkemeyer said.
The 45-room hotel, with all single rooms, will feature amenities such as wireless Internet, on-site laundry, flat screen TVs and free parking, Hinkemeyer said.
Salovich said he hopes the business will keep a "low profile to blend in with the neighborhood." He said the exterior copper trim will make it fit better with other neighborhood buildings, including the McNamara Alumni Center and Rapson Hall.
Bean said she was surprised the hotel is slated to open soon.
"We're happy that it's opening," she said. "It's been a long time coming."