Legendary Weylu’s on Route 1 in Saugus to Face Wrecking Ball

The 50,000-square-foot Chinese pagoda has been shuttered for years.

For more than two decades, Weylu’s has stood atop a small hill on Route 1 like a fortress guarding the orange tyrannosaurus rex statue at Route 1 Mini Golf across the street. Set far back from Route 1, the massive 50,000-square-foot Chinese pagoda once served as an opulent testament to the industrial-sized restaurants that popularized the sprawlish strip of highway, but today it is a sad rundown shell of its former self. Now, after years of disuse and vandalism, the landmark is coming down at the hands of a demolition team.

Work crews are scheduled to begin the long process of demolishing the long vacant restaurant Wednesday. A demolition permit for the property was obtained Monday according to Patch.com. The property has changed hands many times since it was completed in 1989.

The super-sized restaurant complex was the idea of Rick and Wilma Chang, successful restaurateurs who immigrated to the United States from Brazil after fleeing Communist China. Construction began on Weylu’s in 1986. Three years and $13 million ($25 million in 2015 dollars) later, the lavish restaurant filled with marble and silk finally opened to much acclaim, but it did not last forever. The 1,500 seats in the restaurant were not filled every night in the late 1990s and eventually the Bank of China took the restaurant from Chang in foreclosure.

A 2009 Boston Globe history of the property reported that Chang pleaded guilty to unemployment tax fraud and spent 20 days in jail. He now lives in Florida.

The Bank of China-owned property was sold in 2002 for $4.2 million to Tim Cheng of Golden Mountain who later reopened it in 2004 as East Manor and then again as New East Manor, both ventures failed. According to reports, Cheng invested $5 million in sprucing up the property before giving up.

In 2006, the property was leased to Ming Lam family who opened another Chinese restaurant named Jin. The grand opening was a spectacle that featured performances by Dionne Warwick and local high school bands. Like its predecessors, Jin did not last very long. The property tried to echo Weylu’s lavishness with diverse Asian offerings across its three floors while offering modest nightlife entertainment. Then they opened Orchid nightclub, a facility in the same vein as the Palace, another Route 1 landmark that met the wrecking ball.

Orchid was a nightmarish property for the owners as it was the scene of shootings and brawls from nearly the time it opened until the day it closed. At one point there were two shootings at the property within a week. Meanwhile, Yelpers gave the place so-so reviews with one describing the interior as “having enough orange to make you feel like you are in the Willy Wonka factory.”

Saugus officials finally had enough. In December 2009, a combination of tax violations, illegal renovations, and violent incidents prompted the Saugus selectmen to revoke all of Jin’s permits.

“There are many incidents of disorder and violence that consume a great deal of our resources on a regular basis,” said Saugus Police Chief Domenic DiMella at the hearing.

With no licenses to operate, Jin shut down and the property went dark though Golden Mountain retained ownership. In 2013, they sold Weylu’s for $4.25 million to Republic Properties, the current owner of the property. Joseph DiNanno, co-owner of Republic Properties, told the Boston Business Journal in 2014 that the property’s future is undetermined.

“We don’t know what the final mix will be. But we envision a mixed-use development that would include a hotel, retail, perhaps some office, multifamily, and entertainment. We are hoping to have a preliminary plan in the next few months and sit down with Saugus and Revere officials to collaborate on what works best,” said DiNanno in an interview.

In December 2014, photographer Brian Cummings documented the extensive decay of the property.