Panda Express eatery coming to mall area

The Tiffin Zoning Board of Appeals approved a variance Tuesday afternoon that could clear the way for a Panda Express to open on property at Tiffin Mall.

According to a Seneca Industrial and Economic Development Corp. release, the business is a fast-casual dining chain that serves American-Chinese food. The company was founded in California in 1983.

George Oravecz, an engineering consultant for mall owner Key Hotel and Property Management, of Toledo, said a 5.17-foot setback variance was needed and 159 parking spaces must be eliminated to construct the restaurant.

The restaurant is to be located between Circle K and Jimmy John’s/AT&T.

Oravecz said variances were needed so the restaurant could have a pick-up window and to provide adequate access to the establishment.

Assistant Engineer Matt Watson said a similar variance was granted by the board to Jimmy John’s about a year and a half ago.

He said the changes would offer no danger to customers and said there still would be good visibility for area businesses. He also said there still will be 1,178 parking spaces available on mall property after the reduction, which is in line with city code on the number of spots needed for the property.

Oravecz also said the changes will create better traffic flow.

SIEDC President and CEO David Zak said SIEDC Development Manager Bryce Riggs has been working almost daily with mall ownership on developing the site since the company purchased the property in September 2017.

Zak told zoning board members the variance was paramount.

“I believe this is critical to the redevelopment of a site that in 2014 was listed on deadmalls.com,” he said. “It’s also further evidence that good things are happening.”

Zak said he is thrilled with KHPM.

“This variance is critical in the redevelopment of the mall, this will have a tremendous impact on economic development and on quality of life,” he said.

Mayor Aaron Montz said he “fully supports” the project. He said if the zoning board of appeals had not granted the variance Tuesday, it could have jeopardized bringing the restaurant to Tiffin.

He said the announcement follows several other announcements of businesses planning to locate on property at the mall. Those announcements include Jimmy John’s, Goo Goo 3-Minute Express Wash and Kiku Fusion Sushi and Steak House.

Jimmy John’s/AT&T, Goo Goo and Panda Express all are opening in out lots at the mall, but Kiku Fusion is to be located in the former space of East of Chicago Pizza, inside the mall.

Montz said Panda Express is one of many businesses the city and SIEDC have been in contact with and he said more announcements could come soon for the mall and for the city.

“This is just one step, it’s an opportunity for the citizens to see the mall come back to life,” he said. “It shows developers have Tiffin in mind. We are happy to welcome Panda Express and look forward to continued growth in the West Market Street corridor.”