Hyde Park's McDonald's will soon undergo major changes: as the location moves from 53rd and Kendall to 52nd and Lake Park Boulevard, the look and feel of the restaurant will be substantially changed to a more modern and sanitary facility.
Current plans project that McDonald's will reopen at its new location by summer.
Abraham Morgan, the owner of the current local franchise, said that the 53rd Street location "does not fit the motif of what we here at McDonald's like to provide."
Morgan announced tentative plans to make the restaurant "black media-themed," modeled on the rock-n-roll McDonald's on Ontario Street downtown. The display will preserve the legacy of black-owned papers such as the Chicago Defender and the defunct Chicago Crusader.
Rob Jackson, the regional marketing director at McDonald's and a Hyde Park resident, said the age of the 27-year-old location had a large impact on the decision to move venues. "We put our locations in categories according to physical condition, and the issues of the physical plant on 53rd as far as heating, air conditioning, and plumbing were such that the costs of operating were too high.
Jackson said that McDonald's wanted a strong statement of their brand in the physical restaurant in Hyde Park, and the 52nd Street location offered a chance for a more modern, efficient venue.
Jackson added that the recent shooting in the McDonald's parking lot was also a factor in the decision to move. On November 25, a 21 year-old male was shot and killed by an off-duty Chicago police officer after a confrontation outside of this McDonald's location.
Asked if the shooting was the prime consideration for moving early, Jackson said that was only one of many concerns. "That was the quote I gave to the Hyde Park Herald, but they chose not to play it that way," he explained
McDonald's Corp. began the process of moving in the summer of 2002, according to Jackson. He cited the need for land acquisition as a way to relieve operational difficulties, calling the 53rd street location "land locked."
Morgan bought the 53rd street franchise in late 2002 with the understanding that they would quickly try to move the location to 52nd street. Morgan said that he expected to be the owner and operator of the new 52nd street McDonald's.
With the lack of space, according to Jackson, McDonald's was unable to add a drive-thru at the former location. Also, truck deliveries blocked the tiny parking lot and prevented easy entering and exiting from the street. With only one entrance/exit connecting to the street, unloading supplies began to hinder business.
Bob Mason, the executive director of the South East Chicago Commission, a planning group for the south side, said that community leaders had long opposed fixing those problems on 53rd because "most of that street is of a pedestrian nature, unlike Lake Park [Avenue]."
Also, the property and equipment were not modernized. "This limited the customer's experience," said Jackson. "This McDonald's had its entrance in the back, an extremely small lobby and did not have the good access of a traditional [modern] McDonald's restaurant."
Mason, supporting this view, said that the new McDonald's location would allow a drive-thru window without disrupting traffic patterns.
Students in the University did not seem distressed by the demise of the 53rd Street McDonald's. "[The food] tasted a little bit different from the other McDonald's," said Rodrigo Rodriquez, a second-year in the College. "The service was not good, and I couldn't stand the atmosphere."
Rodriquez said that he owned a car and that the drive-thru planned for the new McDonald's would make him more likely to go.
"Using a drive-thru is fast and if you go through late the drive-thru is not as dangerous as it might be going inside," he added.
Mason bemoaned the conditions of the building. "A number of people complained about the service, and lack thereof. There were often people that had been arrested hanging out there, not eating, just hanging out. The police were certainly aware of it."
Describing service at the old McDonald's, Kendra Tucker, a fourth-year in the College, said that the employees used to chuck McFlurries at him when he went.