Agency OKs Drive-Up Food Outlet in High-Rise

Times Staff Writer

Despite objections by city experts, the Glendale Redevelopment Agency on Tuesday approved a unique concept to build a drive-through, fast-food outlet in a proposed high-rise office and theater complex.

Acting on the advice of staff members and consultants, Redevelopment Director Susan Shick said a plan to build a drive-through McDonald's restaurant in a proposed 9-story development would be "an inappropriate mix" in a key downtown redevelopment project and cause "adverse congestion and poor circulation."

But four of the five Glendale City Council members, acting as the redevelopment agency, voted to approve the concept by the Howard-Platz development firm of Glendale to include a drive-through McDonald's in the proposed project at 500 N. Central Ave.

McDonald's operates an outlet at the site--the corner of Central and Milford Street--which is among the most successful McDonald's in Southern California, company officials said. However, city officials have long complained that the intersection also is one of the most congested in the city.

'Urban Prototype Building'

Developer Mike Howard said the project could serve as an "urban prototype building" for fast-food outlets in suburban areas that are rapidly becoming urbanized.

Douglas Ring, an attorney representing McDonald's, told the agency in January that the concept of combining high-rise development with fast-food convenience may become the wave of the future in urbanized areas.

"This may have a major impact not only for our company," Ring said, "but impact the way the industry operates in the United States and in the world."

Councilman Larry Zarian voiced the lone opposition. He said the traffic congestion at the intersection "has been a nuisance all along" and construction of a larger fast-food outlet, coupled with an office development and proposed five-screen theater, will compound problems.

"Its bad now. It's horrendous. The problems are insurmountable," Zarian said. "We're playing a dangerous game contrary to what our own people tell us."

Councilwoman Ginger Bremberg, however, said the proposed development would alleviate congestion by moving ingress to the restaurant, which now backs up on Central, to Milford. "It is not incumbent on this government to force McDonald's out of business," Bremberg said. "The concept plans do nothing but improve the conditions."

City staff members and consultants had recommended that the McDonald's be eliminated altogether or that the drive-through service be prohibited.

Design consultant Frank Fuller of Berkeley, in a report to the agency, wrote that he would not recommend the restaurant-office-theater complex with the drive-in service. "The largest urban design problem with the proposed project is the insertion of a suburban prototype of a fast food restaurant into an urban mixed-use project," Fuller said.

City Planning Director John W. McKenna said the site of the McDonald's and its proposed expansion "is not a good location for a drive-through, fast-food restaurant." He recommended that "if McDonald's wants to stay at this location, all drive-through provisions should be eliminated."

Called Integral to Project

However Greg Hillgren, a partner in the Howard-Platz Group, said provisions allowing the drive-through service are integral to the $30-million project. He said automobile take-out traffic accounts for half of the sales volume at the outlet, which is one of the 10 most successful in the region.

While other McDonald's are in shopping malls and office buildings, Hillgren said "they do not do nearly as well" as typical suburban drive-through outlets. He said McDonald's, which owns part of the development site, has agreed to participate only if it is allowed to retain its current service and expand its operation.

"McDonald's has enunciated in ringing tones that they don't wish to leave," Bremberg said. "I would not want to start to condemn them."

Howard-Platz proposes to begin construction on the project in a year. The development would include the McDonald's on the ground floor of an office building at the corner of Central and Milford, a multilevel parking structure for 472 cars and a 1,600-seat theater at the corner of Milford and Orange Street.

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