The future of a new McDonald’s location near downtown is unclear and might depend on whether a developer is interested in what will soon become a larger parcel of land.
Akron City Council recently approved the sale of about six acres of property to Rubber City McDonald’s that Akron will eventually own, bordering a new exit from Interstate 76/77 at South Main Street and South Broadway.
The property now has several existing businesses. It will become the city’s after it is acquired by the Ohio Department of Transportation, which is embarking on a $96.4 million project to reshape the I-76/77 interchange in the area.
Rubber City McDonald’s owns three acres of land bordered by Broadway, South Main and Thornton streets. The local McDonald’s franchisee bought the property in 2011 from the former Church of the Good Shepherd for $500,000 and had planned a new McDonald’s location to replace its drive-thru only location across the freeway on Wolf Ledges Parkway.
Rubber City McDonald’s owner-operator John Blickle has long said he needs to replace the Wolf Ledges business because it does not have a dining room. Also, when ODOT closed the westbound entrance ramp from the interstate last year, it limited access to his restaurant.
However, the aggressive ODOT project, which is expected to take up to three years to complete, has put the new McDonald’s location on hold, said Blickle, the largest McDonald’s franchise owner in the Akron area with 20 locations.
Originally, Blickle was unsure whether he could get a McDonald’s built before the construction. Now he said he doesn’t want to build a new McDonald’s that “no one can get to for three years.”
And Blickle will soon have more land at that site.
While Blickle said he is not in the business of being a land developer, city of Akron officials about a year ago approached Blickle and asked if he would be willing to buy the six acres that will be landlocked after the expressway project is over.
That plot will have no direct access to any roads, except through Blickle’s McDonald's property.
So Blickle agreed. He will pay what the city pays ODOT and that amount has not yet been determined.
Blickle said if he kept the McDonald’s land, he could create a frontage road for other buildings to be developed on the other six acres. Or the McDonald’s could go somewhere else.
“We really don’t know how it’s going to be developed. There are some people who have looked at the project and said it could be used as a single user. Our agreement with the city is if a single user comes along and doesn’t want McDonald’s on their site, we’ll find somewhere else to go,” Blickle said.
“We would love to put a McDonald’s there, but if the bigger picture is that a single user comes along and wants 10 acres with ideal access to downtown Akron, our agreement with the city allows us flexibility where we can go,” he said. “I’m not going to start a construction of a McDonald’s and mess up how the rest of the land gets developed.”
Blickle said his Wolf Ledges store will need to move regardless of what happens, though he doesn’t think he’ll have to close that location before he can find and build a new one. Blickle said he’s been assured that there will always be four entrances at either Wolf Ledges, Grant or Main streets.
The new expressway configuration will bring the off ramp closer to the current Blickle land near Thornton, but there will be restricted access right off the ramp, which won’t allow for a direct turn into the property. Blickle said it just happened to work out that the ODOT project will take other nearby land and businesses and not his.
Once the city sells the property to Blickle, he will own an area of nine acres.
Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/blinfisher and see all her stories at www.ohio.com/betty.