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New Pasadena apartment complex would surround the original Panda Inn

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The specter of demolition is fading

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The first Panda Inn, the restaurant that eventually spawned an orange-chicken-fueled fast food empire, is still in operation in Pasadena, about two blocks from the Sierra Madre Villa Station. Last week, Los Angeles magazine reported that the original Panda might be in danger of demolition. Now, it looks like the eatery will survive after all, says the Pasadena Star-News.

The restaurant was rumored to be in the way of a plan to put up apartments on the site. A “preliminary document” from Pasadena’s planning director indicated that the 7,400-square-foot restaurant would need to be razed in order for a new project to be built, says the Star-News.

The proposed project would include 232 market-rate apartments and 26 very low income apartments in two 6-story buildings, plus 465 parking spaces, 62,000 square feet of open space and terraces, and a 8,140-square-foot restaurant.

The inclusion of that larger restaurant space seemed to indicate that the original Panda Inn would be replaced, but that element of the plan might actually be up in the air. A manager at the restaurant told the Star-News, “We’re still in the early stages of development, but we do plan to stay at this location. We do not plan to demolish.”

And, representatives for Panda Inn told Eater LA, “We do not have any intentions to demolish the original Panda Inn.” They did express interest in “elevating the overall experience” at the restaurant, hinting at a remodel for the space.

The Panda Inn opened at this Pasadena site in 1973 by Andrew Cherng and his father, Chef Ming-Tsai Cherng, says LA Mag. Another Panda Inn opened in Glendale in 1982, and then shortly after that, the first Panda Express opened in the Glendale Galleria mall.

In January, a Panda-managed development company called CFT NV Developments LLC bought a collection of properties totaling almost 4 acres around the Panda Inn. Their purchase included some parking lots and the 11-story Gateway Metro Center office building next to the Panda Inn. They plan to remodel the first two floors of the office structure.