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McDonalds makeover

Now that the Elmira Road McDonald's has been replaced with a new building, it's time for the Village of Lansing McDonald's to get a McMakeover.  Bohler Engineering Project Manager Steve Wilson presented a plan to the Village Planning board last week that would replace the traditional Donald's bright red mansard roof with a more muted design.

"Gone is the double-sided mansard roof that was iconic of McDonald's in the '70s and '80s," Wilson said.  "The building height remains the same.  The footprint remains the same.  We will remove the mansard roof and straighten out the roof line to make the building a little more sophisticated in appearance.  We'll tone down the colors to make them a little more muted, using more earth tones."

Wilson was in the Village for an informal presentation, and to collect first impressions from the board on what it might accept in a final plan.  Board members generally liked what they saw, but had strong reservations about signage.  Planning Board Chairman Mario Tomei said the brick and stone facade on the Elmira Road McDonald's is more attractive than the plainer design proposed for the Village, and asked whether it could be applied to the Triphammer Road restaurant.

"That building was designed to support that type of building facade," Wilson said. "A renovation like this probably wouldn't support that kind of exterior.  It has a lot to do with the volume of (business done at) the store, what kind of investment was made into the building and the site.  It probably wouldn't support it."

Wilson noted that site issues such as driving capacity and ADA compliance had been addressed about a year ago.  Village Engineer Brent Cross noted that those remedies did not entirely fix the problem drive-through traffic backing up into Triphammer Road during peak business times.


The Planning Board's biggest issue was the amount of signage, which added the word "McDonald's" on several sides of the building, as well as the golden arches logo, plus a 25 foot tall sign that would add an electronic message board to the golden arches logo, more than twice the size of the current free-standing sign.  Wilson said the addition of all that signage was due to studies that found most customers eat at McDonald's on impulse as they drive by.

"The majority of people don't make it a destination," he said. "They're driving by, they see it and decide to eat.  They need time to digest the sign, see it from a distance, and make the decisions to maneuver traffic and come into the site.  That's why we surround the building with signs to support that theory.  McDonald's knows once you pass a McDonald's, you're not going to turn around.  You're going to keep going down the street to the next place to eat.  Now the competition is 20-fold.  Everybody has a drive-through.  It's a much more aggressive marketplace, and that's the reason for much more aggressive signage."

But Planning Board members noted that the choice of fast food restaurants is much more limited near the Triphammer McDonald's than it is near it's Elmira Road counterpart.  Planning Board member Lisa Schleelein said the proposed signage is about double the allowed signage square footage for a building like this.  She said the message board would be distracting, especially in an area she called tricky to navigate during certain times of day when a lot of people are diverting in and out of the McDonald's.

"We're taking away three of the 'McDonalds' words and leaving you one big one along Triphammer Road which is the most visible side of that building," Tomei said. "And we're totally opposed to the large free-standing one.  The electronic sign is not going to go.  Right now there's a smaller (free-standing sign) there.  If you want to go about half way between that size and the smaller one, that's OK."

Village Code Enforcement/Zoning Officer Adam Robbs suggested Wilson should come back to the next Planning Board meeting after consulting with the owner, to find compromises, and said if those compromises are not acceptable he could appeal to the ZBA for a variance, but he warned that the ZBA has been less flexible about signage in the past than the Planning board.

"We haven't been extremely flexible," Schleelein said. "It's a standard we set that we're pretty clear about.  We want to make this work, but we don't want signs everywhere.   It's just part of our culture."

Aside from the signage issue, the board seemed amenable to the proposed changes.

"We want McDonalds to be here," Tomei said.

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