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Owner says McDonald's is good for site
Owner says McDonald's is good for site
By SUE REID
There is a silent majority out there who want a state-of-the-art new McDonald's restaurant at SOM Center (Route 91) and Aurora (Route 43) roads in Solon, Dave Gnatowski, area construction manager for the chain, said Monday.
Their support, and that of the entire Solon community, is being sought, he said. "We need to hear from them," Mr. Gnatowski said. "The project hinges on this."
"I want the facts to stand out and to hear from everybody," Meloney G. Karos, owner-operator of the Solon McDonald's, said. "If people don't want it, I can totally walk away and understand, but I don't think all of the facts have been out there for the public to review."
The restaurant is scheduled to go before Solon City Council Dec. 6 for final approval of the site plan.
Mr. Gnatowski, along with Ms. Karos, who also owns seven other restaurants in the area, addressed various issues raised with the proposed site. They also discussed their 13-year search in Solon for the best location to move from the existing site on Aurora Road.
"We have looked everywhere, and we felt this was the best site in terms of visibility, customer approachability and access," Ms. Karos said. When the Sunoco gas station there closed in March 2009 and the property became available, "we decided we wanted to pursue it," she said. "We know it will work for us, and we feel the site is viable."
She said she's investing over $2 million in the nearly 4,000-square-foot building proposed and a 20-year commitment. "Why would I put it in a location that would fail?" she asked. "I'm very excited about this building, and I hope it gets built."
Ms. Karos said the city has given its input "every step of the way."
"We have worked hand in hand with the city," Mr. Gnatowski said. "It's been a true partnership. We've been working together with them in a partnership in conjunction with each other."
Ms. Karos said the building's Western Reserve design came to be after bringing several different architectural plans to the city.
"We want the public to know that this building will be much more green," she said. Windows on each face of the building, as recommended by the city, will allow for natural light, she said. Other green elements include reduced water flow, energy conservation, materials recycling and the use of Light Emitting Diode, or LED lighting, inside and out, she said.
It will be the only design of its kind across the country, she said.
It will feature a double drive-through, which Ms. Karos estimated will serve 80 percent of the customers. As a result, the restaurant will not worsen the traffic situation in the area, she said.
"There are 43,900 cars that go up 91 every day, and that's not my fault," she said.
The way the site plan is laid out and positioned north toward the Route 422 freeway interchange, "you will have very minimal conflicts," Mr. Gnatowski said. "It's a natural way to go. The business will be with the flow of traffic."
"With the donation of the strip of land from Visconsi (the property owner), we will have a designated right-turn lane at that intersection, which Solon does not have now," Ms. Karos said, "and that will improve the situation."
Mr. Gnatowski said there will be more local business frequenting the restaurant at lunchtime, including high school students.
"People will be able to safely navigate and get in and out," he said.
The restaurant has received approval from City Council's safety and public properties committee and is working in conjunction with the traffic engineer, Mr. Gnatowski said.
Ms. Karos said there were no accidents historically in the area of the Sunoco site going back three years.
As far as the number of zoning variances required for the restaurant, Ms. Karos said, no matter what business goes on that property, there would be a need for them.
She said there are few businesses that could afford that site."The site is very expensive to develop," she said. "I think that site would go vacant for many years if this doesn't go through. It would be an eyesore."
In regard to adequate parking, Mr. Gnatowski said, based on the seating count, the restaurant just about meets the requirement. It is the requirement per the city code with regard to square footage where it falls short, he said. "When you look at the code that really counts, then we are meeting it."
The site is not being overbuilt, Ms. Karos said. The property has been staked out with pink ribbons for the community to see, she said. "If people go see the actual property, they will see it is not being overbuilt. When you look at the stakes, it's more of a visual instead of seeing the small Sunoco station. The property goes back quite a bit."
The restaurant's current location on Aurora Road serves about 800 to 1,000 customers a day, Ms. Karos said. It is one of the few free-standing McDonald's restaurants in the entire country and has been in its location for 41 years, she said.
Ms. Karos said her father and uncle partnered to build the Solon restaurant, and she purchased it in 1998. Solon is her "home base," she said. "It's a wonderful community, and it's my home base," she said. "It has a lot of sentimental value to me personally, because it was my first store."
Ms. Karos said she wishes the restaurant would be something that could be celebrated in the community. It means more sales tax for the city, more employees, more payroll tax and increased real-estate taxes, she said.
She said she will prepare the current McDonald's site for redevelopment, so there will be two new buildings in the area. "It will not be an eyesore there," Ms. Karos said.
If the restaurant receives City Council's approval, plans are to break ground next spring. Construction of the new building would take about three months.
"The whole purpose of this new restaurant is to put ourself in a position to give our customers the absolute best and to give back to the community a much needed reinvestment at that corner," Ms. Karos said.
"My commitment to Solon to anchor that intersection with the most aesthetically pleasing building is my main desire," she said.
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