National chain clears ground for Eagle River restaurant

Thursday, June 1, 2017 - 13:02
  • A partially demolished building at the corner of Schroeder Drive and the Old Glenn Highway in Eagle River, May 20, 2017. Panda Express, a popular American Chinese restaurant chain, plans on building a new restaurant on the lot later this year. (Star photo by Kirsten Swann)
  • A fence surrounds a property at the corner of Schroeder Drive and the Old Glenn Highway in Eagle River, May 20, 2017. Panda Express, a popular American Chinese restaurant chain, plans on building a new restaurant on the lot later this year. (Star photo by Kirsten Swann)
  • A Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce sticker on the window of an Eagle River business on May 22, 2017. Since January, 16 new members have joined the local chamber, which represents a variety of businesses throughout the community. (Star photo by Kirsten Swann)

An Eagle River demolition site alongside the Old Glenn will quickly become home to the area’s newest fast food restaurant.

According to a spokeswoman for Panda Express, the popular Chinese-American chain plans to build its new restaurant at the corner of Schroeder Drive and the Old Glenn Highway, where crews recently began tearing down an existing single-story building.

With more than 1,900 locations worldwide — including two in Anchorage and one in Wasilla — Panda Express is the largest family owned restaurant in America, according to the company. It plans to open its Eagle River location this year.

The restaurant is set to join a steady trickle of new businesses making their way into Chugiak-Eagle River. Since January, the Chugiak-Eagle River of Commerce has welcomed 16 new members, bringing the total to 337, according to executive director Dana Thorp Patterson.

“That’s pretty strong,” she said.

Despite a state forecast predicting a second straight year of job losses in 2017, businesses don’t seem to be shying away from Chugiak-Eagle River: Recent additions include everything from a tamale restaurant to a title company to a flower shop. At the local chamber, new members include finance and investment firms, a fishing charter company and several independent contractors.

The growth falls in line with the state’s projections. According to the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, sectors like management, health care, entertainment, recreation and food services are expected to experience some of the largest job growth between 2014 and 2024.

In Chugiak-Eagle River, the new additions are signs that both consumers and business owners are feeling hopeful and optimistic, Patterson said.

“It’s kind of a nice thing to see.”

Contact reporter Kirsten Swann at [email protected]

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