ohio city residents oppose mcdonald's development for local, global reasons

Belying a recent assertion by Plain Dealer columnist Mark Naymik that some Ohio City residents who oppose a new McDonald's at Lorain Avenue and Fulton Road are "a bit snobby" and part of the "$6-a-beer crowd," hundreds gathered at Franklin Circle Church on Tuesday to express their fears that it would be detrimental to the entire community.

"There is a misperception that it's white, middle-class people who don't want this," explains Krissie Wells, who has garnered over 700 signatures on a change.org petition opposing the McDonald's. "That couldn't be further from the truth. There are people from all backgrounds who support this [petition effort]. There are other affordable food options in the neighborhood, though not as many as I'd like."

McDonald's has proposed relocating its restaurant from Detroit Avenue and W. 70th Street to the site of the former Hollywood Video, which has been vacant for several years. The proposed McDonald's would sit close to the street, have an outdoor patio, and a two-lane drive-through in the rear of the property.

Despite efforts by McDonald's to incorporate feedback from the neighborhood and adhere to design review guidelines in the Lorain Historic District, the majority of residents at the meeting opposed it because they fear that it will bring traffic, trash and noise to the area. They would prefer to see development occur here that better fits with the area's historic character. Many residents also believe that McDonald's food is unhealthy and contributes to our nation's obesity problem.

Mike Fiala, a resident of W. 38th who lives adjacent to the site, argues that Lorain and Fulton is not the right location for a McDonald's. "The pedestrian retail overlay district here is all about promoting... pedestrian-oriented density," he said. "We need a building with greater massing. This will be a sea of concrete and asphalt."

McDonald's representatives and Larsen Architects presented an extensive proposal that showed how the restaurant would help activate a dead corner of long-struggling Lorain, but attendees remained largely unconvinced.

"I don't think this is the right spot for this use, based on one simple thing: Would you want a drive-through next to your home?" asks Councilman Joe Cimperman, an Ohio City resident whose ward includes the site at Lorain and Fulton. "To people who say something is better than nothing, I'd remind them that before W. 25th was W. 25th Street, there were proposals for a state liquor store and check cashing place [that were ultimately rejected]."

McDonald's has said that it will continue to pursue approvals through the City of Cleveland's Design Review, Landmarks and Planning Commissions. The project may also require variances from the Board of Zoning Appeals. At this time, it remains unclear what power residents have to stop the project. If they do, the future of the site also remains unclear, as no alternative use has been identified. An affordable housing development was proposed here earlier this year, but it was not awarded the necessary funding from the Ohio Housing Finance Agency.

Source: Krissie Wells, Mike Fiala, Joe Cimperman, McDonald's, Larsen Architects
Writer: Lee Chilcote
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