Could McDonald's Have Had Waste Imagination? Ponder this at 372 Elmira Rd.

Waste(d) Imagination Tour

Could McDonald's Have Had Waste Imagination? Ponder this at 372 Elmira Rd.

Ithaca, New York 14850, United States

Created By: Just Places Lab


372 Elmira Rd, Ithaca, NY 14850

The McDonald’s location at 372 Elmira Road was demolished and rebuilt on the same lot between the summer and fall of 2017, with the new building opening in January 2018. McDonald’s has owned and operated the lot since 1964, and the demolished building was one of the oldest McDonald’s restaurants in New York State. The Cayuga Group, owners of the McDonald’s franchise on Elmira Rd. before and after the demolition and reconstruction, briefly considered renovations before settling on a complete demolition and rebuild (Anbinder, 2018). Demolition and reconstruction were slated for September to November 2017. The cost of the new structure, including demolition, was estimated at $950,000 ($15,000 for demolition and $935,000 for construction). Other costs included new paving, site work, and landscaping for a total estimated project cost of $1,375,000.

The replacement building is a commercial McDonald’s with a footprint of 4,400 sq. ft. The new restaurant incorporates McDonald’s Next Generation architectural style and the City of Ithaca Elmira Road-Meadow Street Corridor Design Guidelines. Changes to the parcel design include an enlarged drive-thru, decreased off-street parking, increased landscaping area, upgrades to LED parking lot lighting, and sidewalk and parking lot reconstruction to Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards. The access point remained unchanged. According to the site plan review narrative (see Appendix E for a copy of the project narrative), these parcel design changes create “a more pedestrian-friendly environment while still accommodating automobiles by improving vehicular circulation and providing direct pedestrian access to the public sidewalk” (Site Plan Review Project Narrative, 2017, p. 2).

Separate from local ordinances, corporate policy can influence demolition and deconstruction practices. McDonald’s is currently undergoing a campaign of rapid modernization to its restaurants, likely resulting in many building demolitions and rebuilds. Restaurants updated at a pace of 10 per day for a total of 3,000 restaurant updates through 2018 (Klein, 2018a). If McDonald’s had been willing and able to implement a corporate policy to deconstruct and reuse building materials at the outset of the “Experience the Future” campaign, there would likely have been a significant impact on the economy, health, and the environment. For example, the site at 372 Elmira Rd. contained asbestos, which is a hazardous material. There is evidence that deconstruction reduces or eliminates the risk of exposure to asbestos compared to demolition due to the lack of debris and the ability to remove hazardous material when it is found (Woolverton, 2016). On a broader scale, deconstruction also provides economic benefits to the community in terms of job training and environmental benefits through waste reduction and material reuse (McCarthy, 2013). The national level at which McDonald’s operates and the volume of building redesigns across the United States would have been a good opportunity to focus corporate policy on deconstruction.

Read more on the Just Places Demolishing Stories page.

Excerpts from a longer report developed by Brian Toy.

This point of interest is part of the tour: Waste(d) Imagination Tour


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