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PORTLAND-McDonalds’ executives sat down with city officials this week to discuss the ins and outs of opening a drive-thru restaurant at the former Arby’s location at 34th and Hawthorne, a site they’ve been eyeing ever since Atlanta-based RTM shuttered its Arby’s store there nine months ago.

Back in October 2000, GlobeSt.com spoke with a source at Atlanta-based RTM who said property owner John Biggi Jr. of Portland-based Biggi Investment Co. was in negotiations with a McDonald’s franchisee that wanted to lease the site.

Coming into a suburban-style drive-thru location in a hip and relatively non-nationalized retail district like Hawthorne will be rough for McDonald’s. Most business owners and residents have never liked the property, which devotes most of its lot to parking in stark contrast to the rest of the pedestrian-oriented district.

The source at RTM said the firm closed up shop in Hawthorne because the neighborhood “didn’t fit our customer profile” and wasn’t turning a profit. Indeed, Hawthorne residents and businesspeople have shown a distinct lack of interest in the biggest of the national fast food chains. Kentucky Fried Chicken and Arctic Circle also have come and gone from Hawthorne, and Burger King, which wanted to open at 39th and Hawthorne ultimately canceled plans due to neighborhood operation.

Nonetheless, expect McDonald’s to give it a try, because there are almost no barriers to opening up a location at the site. The property is already zoned for fast food and the all-essential drive-thru is a grandfathered non-conforming use, which means as long as the drive-thru doesn’t sit unused for more than two years and isn’t altered in any way, it can continue to be utilized as such.

Indeed, if McDonald’s had a lease in hand, it could open up the location tomorrow without any flack from the city. That scenario is unlikely, of course, because McDonald’s will want to come in and do its corporate makeover, which will no doubt cost upward of $25,000 and force it to seek a building permit.

Regardless, the as-yet unknown franchisee can expect opposition from the community, which has already been tagging the boarded-up building and surrounding telephone poles with anti-McDonald’s sentiment. “I’m amazed at how quick and responsive the neighborhood and business groups have been,” says Sheila Frugoli, the senior planner who hosted this week’s meeting. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

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