SOUTH KINGSTOWN - Two corporate chains in town moved closer to renovations after gaining architectural plan approval last Tuesday from the Planning Board.
McDonald’s on Old Tower Hill Road will demolish its existing striped facade in place of what owners and corporate liaisons said is a sleeker, more modern design. Board members agreed that the renovations would be an improvement over the building’s existing outdated look, and ultimately approved design plans.
But despite the approval, members said the design – which fits within the footprint of the existing structure – did not fit in with their overall vision for Wakefield’s commercial district.
“I think we have all seen other McDonald’s in other parts of the country that are much more responsive to local architecture, local culture, and local style,” Planning Board member Douglas Langdon said. “This to my opinion has no reference to South Kingstown and it is a huge disappointment. I think most people in town would wonder what we were doing if we passed it.”
With renovations, South Kingstown will wave goodbye to the bright reds and yellows on the existing Wakefield building, and in its place gain a flat-roofed, clapboard-style sided restaurant with colorful accents in the company's signature yellow.
“It looks a little industrial, that’s all,” board member Leslie Castrovillari said.
The Planning Board bartered with McDonald’s corporate representatives and design engineer Alan J. Micale, of Pawtucket-based Ayoub Engineering, to add a pitched roof to the building. Planning Board chairwoman Maria Mack even offered the business additional signage if it agreed to add a sloped roof.
According to Rhona MacFarlane of McDonald’s Corp., a structured roof was outside of company-approved designs.
“The issue of brand recognition is important to the company,” she said.
MacFarlane said the corporation would pay for a portion of the costs associated with the $1.5 million improvement project, but that its contribution was based on the new building fitting into the corporate mold.
“On top of that building there are four HVAC units, four fans, several roof penetrations and then the maintenance of these things,” Micale added. “You have to have access to all of these things. It has to be flat.”
Local franchise owner John Pinkney, a South Kingstown resident, told the board that it wasn’t McDonald’s, but his investment, that would be lost if the board and plan designers couldn’t come to a consensus.
“I want to do what’s right,” Pinkney said. “I’m a resident of this town and I’m going to be here for another 30 years until I’m in the pine box.”
“McDonald’s puts in a portion of the money, but the majority is mine,” he added.
“I don’t think we want to deter this project from going forward because it is an improvement, it is an investment,” Mack said before the board voted to move forward with improvements.
In a similar project, the Mobile gas station on Route 1 gained approval for a renovation that will make significant alterations to the building and improve access to the roadway from the parking lot that abuts the intersection of Mooresfield Road and Route 1.
If approved by the Zoning Board, the design will also add a sixth pumping station for patrons.
The design, which features a gabled roof and cupola, was met with barely any discussion by the board.
“I don’t think any of us can resist the irony that we have a restaurant that looks like a gas station and a gas station that looks like a restaurant,” Langdon said at the close of the meeting.
In accordance with new storm water treatment regulations, both designs will increase treatment of water runoff using rain gardens. The gardens serve an aesthetic purpose by adding greenery in commercial districts, and they incorporate plants with root systems that leech pollutants from the water runoff coming from the properties.