Extreme McMakeover

The McDonald’s restaurant as it looked Thursday night. Preliminary design upgrades for the island’s McDonald’s on SR 305 included arches built into a new facade and aluminum roofing. - Julie Busch photo
The McDonald’s restaurant as it looked Thursday night. Preliminary design upgrades for the island’s McDonald’s on SR 305 included arches built into a new facade and aluminum roofing.
— image credit: Julie Busch photo

McDonald’s plans to upgrade its eatery, drawing opposition from longtime foes.

McDonald’s restaurants across the globe are undergoing makeovers with sleeker lines and warmer colors under grander golden arches.

The same is true for the Bainbridge McDonald’s, with plans to upgrade the island’s lone franchise hamburger eatery exterior for a more striking, contemporary design.

But some islanders – who’ve objected to the restaurant on aesthetic grounds since it was first proposed more than 15 years ago – say the more drab and unassuming the corporate franchise, the better.

“We tried to encourage them to at least blend in with the community (rather than) more of the same of ‘Anywhere, USA,’” said Bainbridge farmer Betsey Wittick, one of many islanders who protested construction of the McDonald’s at State Route 305 and High School Road in 1989.

“I wish they were even more innocuous,” Wittick said, “and I’m discouraged they (now) want a brighter roof and bigger sign.”

Designs submitted to the city planning department by McDonald’s depict various exterior upgrades, including an extended parapet, an illuminated logo, an aluminum cornice strip and “golden arches” extending over the roof.

“Ultimately, I think it’ll be a much nicer look,” said Randy Hedrick of Lacey-based I-5 Design and Manufacture, which submitted plans to the city on behalf of McDonald’s. “It’s a complete change, with toned-down colors: browns, garden greens and shades of copper. It has more of an organic look.”

The proposed upgrades will also replace weathered shingles and improve fire safety, according to Hedrick.

But preliminary designs submitted to the city have already been sidelined by restrictions imposed on the building when it was permitted in the early 1990s.

According to city planning director Larry Frazier, design plans already vetoed would have included a marquee sign that exceeded city rules limiting signs to 10 percent of a building’s facade.

Other proposed signs ran afoul of local restrictions barring some logo or advertising signs over 2 square feet in size.

Some community activists say McDonald’s plans would break other provisions, including an agreement between the restaurant owners and the city that the building would maintain a subdued cedar siding exterior and a cedar shingle roof.

“The city and citizens worked with McDonald’s a long time to come up with a final design,” said Charles Schmid of the Association of Bainbridge Communities, who championed design restrictions on the restaurant in the late 1980s and early ’90s. “They should stick with what was decided. A deal’s a deal.”

Peninsula McDonald’s Rest­aurants, which owns the Bainbridge eatery and numerous others in the area, submitted revisions to its planning department application Friday afternoon. Bainbridge city planners will take public comment on the proposed upgrades through next Thursday, when a final administrative decision on the application is expected.

Despite the proposed changes, Peninsula McDonald’s’ marketing director Karen McKay said the Bainbridge outlet will reflect local character.

“It’s a little more modern, a little retro,” she said. “We just finished the McDonald’s in Silverdale and the response has been great.”

Supersize changes

The fast-food giant, which boasts 30,000 eateries worldwide and serves some 40 million customers each day, is undergoing a worldwide makeover larger in scale than anything the company has attempted in its 51-year history.

McDonald’s aesthetic changes are running parallel with recent menu revamps aimed at a growing number of health-consious consumers. Asian-themed salads targeting women and fresh fruit for children are now offered alongside the standard burger and fries.

As McDonald’s undergoes changes at the corporate level, McKay pledged a sensitive, localized approach toward the island franchise’s redesign.

“We’ll consider the community and take into account the neighborhood’s taste,” she said.

But on some palettes, McDonald’s will never taste quite right on Bainbridge.

The restaurant inspired a city ban on formula take-out restaurants, which has been modified over the years to restrict similar businesses to High School Road east of the highway.

“The golden arches sign is probably the most hated institution in the world as far as I can tell from the meeting,” said then-mayor of Winslow Alice Tawresey in 1988, after one of many raucous and well-attended community forums centering on the the restaurant’s construction.

Meeting attendees at that time accused the property’s local owner, Don Nakata, of “heartlessness” for allowing the eatery’s construction, while residents flooded the Review’s letters pages bemoaning the chain’s corporate influence and warning that the restaurant would spark the island’s transformation into a new Bellevue.

Others, however, welcomed Mc­Don­ald’s low-cost meals and saw opposition to the fast-food chain as an early sign of gentrification.

That sentiment was reflected in a poem published on the Review’s letters page in 1988: “I think I shall never see a McDonald’s on our isle. The citizens are out in force to confirm our snobbish style.”

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