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Urban McDonald’s in Chicago Could Serve as Model for St. Louis

mcd_chicago3.jpgFast food restaurants, with drive-thru lanes, can fit into an urban streetscape. But, the typical fast food establishment — surrounded by parking — just won’t due anyplace except out in suburbia.

A couple of years ago a McDonald’s on the NE corner of Chicago & State (map) in Chicago was completely replaced by the example shown at right. Architecturally it is no gem. The site planning, however, is a major departure from typical McDonald’s or other fast-food establishments.

This McDonald’s is on a corner site and includes a curb cut onto each street. It does not include any off-street parking, however, it does have a dual drive-thru lane. Cars enter the drive-thru from Chicago. The dual lanes keep traffic from backing up across the public sidewalk and into the street. Cars then make a left behind the building to pick up their orders, exiting onto State.

The corner of the site is an outdoor park/seating area. Customers can eat indoors, outside or take their order to go.

The franchise owner of the McDonald’s on south Grand in St. Louis has made it clear his business relies heavily on drive-thru service and they are seeking to increase that business by relocating. So why have 47 parking spaces? I can’t imagine they will need that many spaces. If the McDonald’s is going to relocate why not move the building to the corner of the site and reduce or eliminate off-street parking?

The McDonald’s in Chicago occupies roughly a third of the land area as the proposed McDonald’s on south Grand. The Chicago example will most likely will do a higher volume of business while occupying less space. That is what urban is all about — getting more from less land. I view the Chicago example as the very least that we should accept in St. Louis.

Photo from A Daily Dose of Architecture. Additional photos on Flickr.


Currently there are "6 comments" on this Article:

  1. I agree completely. In London, my favorite city, there is not even a drive-thru. We should have the same in St. Louis.

    If the politicians do not listen, and this is going to be built anyway, there should be a protest. If something was built in my neighborhood without my consent, or with the overwhelming opposition of my neighbors, I would expect dissent.

    The government is supposed to serve us, not the other way around.

  2. anomalystl says:

    Steve, are you having a bad day? I won’t fault you not all posts can be great all the time. But the featured McDonaldÂ’s is, frankly, hideous.

    “Architecturally it is no gem”. – I agree with that statement. I hope you find better examples please post them. This McDonaldÂ’s, with its’ out-of-proportion free standing sign juxtaposed with the hideous split faced cmu, cheap awnings, and budget oversized brick is NOT architecture.

    We here to promote good architecture in a well-designed urban environment. Don’t EVER post uninspired, dull, etc.etc. buildings for our St. Louis renaissance! Mediocrity breeds mediocrity.

    Sorry to sound agitated, IÂ’m not. I hope your followers donÂ’t flame me.


    formerly known as “anon” this week. 🙂

    [REPLY – Yes, it is ugly. Most McDonald’s are ugly. But my point was the site planning. If we are going to have an ugly McDonald’s I want it to at least be urban and pedestrian friendly. – SLP]

  3. I agree, this building is pretty damn ugly, however, Steve is trying to stress that the planning is nice.

    Have you ever seen a nice looking McDonalds? They build them to be cheap, not to be nice.

    I do not think we could ever get McDonalds to use materials which the city, or any group, chooses. I do, however, think we could at least get them to build the McDonalds without a parking lot.

    Lets pick and choose our battles. I would like to ban McDonalds from the city, but I am not a dick-tator. I think this is a good example of what we should expect, or at least it is a good example of what we should ask for as a minimum requirement.

  4. Josh says:

    I don’t believe in “settling” for things when it comes to an urban environment, but I would accept this as urban if it were the best plan they could propose. The building is much less “McDonald’s-like” meaning that there are potential reuse values. What I don’t like, outside of massive parking lots, are buildings that can not be re-used without looking like they reused a franchise building if for some reason the owners went out of business.

    But I agree, the relation of this building to the street and its use of minimal space would make a plan like this much more plausable and I’d be willing to let up.

    I still dislike the way Ald. Florida chooses to use the lower-income residents as a filter/buffer for the noise and polution that comes from having a drive-through restaurant as your neighbor. It’s fairly disturbing that she would even suggest that, clearly she recognizes the poor living conditions that would be caused by having fumes from automobiles coming through your windows (not to mention the sonic disturbance of cars and the endless “welcome to McDonalds, what the hell do you want?”) and has decided that the poorest in the new development aught to do their civic duty to prevent the more wealthy residents from illness and early-mortality rates by absorbing them.

  5. Joe Frank says:

    I do think the City has some leverage with regard to parking. Unfortunately, it usually uses that power under the zoning code to require MORE parking spaces or uses parking as a red herring to kill a project otherwise undesirable.

    It seems to me about 20 parking spaces is plenty for most fast-food places, even if you figure that two need to reserved for persons with disabilites. You sure don’t need as many parking spaces as you have seats in the dining room, since kids don’t drive.

    Grand and Winnebago, however, is not downtown Chicago. You still need some parking, but I agree it would be much nicer if the entrance was put up against the sidewalk. That would also be ideal for folks stopping by for a bite on the way to/from the bus stop on Grand or Chippewa.

    However, the track record for parking at McD’s in the city is not so good. Look at the one closest to downtown that’s still open, at 1109 North Tucker Blvd. The 20-year-old building is average sized, about 4,000 square feet. But the parking takes up almost an entire city block! Except for a small lot owned by Hogan Trucking at the corner of 13th and Biddle, McD’s owns the entire block #269, bounded by Tucker, Biddle, 13th, and Carr.

    It’s just ridiculous, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen more than 25 cars parked on that lot. By contrast, the single drive-thru lane is often backed up 10 cars deep.

    But when I go there, I come from downtown on foot – a rather hazardous way to go, given the poor condition of the sidewalks in that vicinity.

  6. jefferson says:

    I would love to have development like this in the city. Why can’t all fast food resturants just come up with a stock “urban” store to go with the suburban version? It seems like once the design is there, there should be no trouble plugging them in to urban locations like South Grand.

    IMO, people need to chill out about the architecture; it’s a McDonald’s for cryin’ out loud. That type of structure could find reuse as a branch bank or another restaurant or cafe if it ever ceases to be a mcdonald’s. The point is that it’s up to the street and people are encouraged to walk to it.


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