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Published: Tuesday, 12/3/2002

Fast-food eatery in battle with planners

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

There's more than hot coffee brewing in McDonaldland.

McDonald's Corp. is going into battle with the Toledo Plan Commission over its plans for a drive-thru restaurant at South Avenue and Broadway.

It's a battle that is likely to be repeated in other parts of the city as planners increasingly try to prohibit “franchise architecture” and pedestrian-hostile parking lots and drive lanes.

McDonald's wants to move its south end restaurant a block north from 1736 Broadway. The company has applied for approval of a drive-thru on the site of a former Hot 'N Now Hamburgers restaurant.

The plan commission staff, in a recommendation to the commission, says the familiar red mansard roof that has drawn french fry and cheeseburger fanatics for three decades wouldn't fit in with the neighborhood.

The report claims that most of the buildings in the area have squared-off rooflines. The plan commission staff also believes the drive-thru lane that would circle the restaurant is bad for pedestrians.

Pedestrians should have direct access to the restaurant from the corner of South and Broadway, the staff believes.

Rick Beck, the site acquisition manager for McDonald's, said the site is too small to design a drive-thru that doesn't encircle the building.

He said drive-thru customers account for two-thirds of the business at the current Broadway store. “As competitive as the situation is, to not have a drive thru would be suicidal,” he said, noting that nearby Rally's and Taco Bell restaurants both have drive-thrus and their trademark architecture.

As for the roof, Mr. Beck said, “We're already there with the same roof. It's been part of the neighborhood for 32 years, so it's not foreign to the neighborhood.”

The five-member appointed plan commission will review the application Thursday. The staff's concerns are part of a growing debate taking place over proposed design standards for the city.

The plan commission staff has proposed standards that, if adopted, would prohibit national chains from erecting buildings that are immediately identifiable by brand. Such buildings, they say, demonstrate lack of respect for local architecture. The standards would also require that pedestrians be given direct access from the sidewalk to a building's entrance, preferably without crossing parking lots and drive lanes.

The proposed standards drew strong criticism from builders and developers when they were unveiled in October.

Steve Serchuk, chairman of the plan commission, said a task force of 14 people has been appointed to develop standards that the development community can support. “I'm optimistic there will be citywide design standards,” he said.



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