Highland McDonald’s Proposal Withdrawn

By Amos Maki

The developers behind a proposed McDonald’s on Highland Avenue near the University of Memphis withdrew their request for approval from the Land Use Control Board Thursday, Nov. 14.

Century Management, the developers of a new McDonald’s restaurant to be built at the southeast corner of Highland Street and Southern Avenue, pulled their plans for the new restaurant Thursday, Nov. 14, before the Land Use Control Board was to vote on it.

(Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)

The developers, Century Management Inc., have withdrawn their plan completely after initially signaling they were withdrawing for 30 days.

The proposed restaurant at the southeast corner of Highland Street and Southern Avenue has ignited strong opposition from neighbors – including university leaders and the University Neighborhood Development Corp. – because it does not comply with portions of the University District Overlay, a set of zoning regulations that promotes urban, pedestrian-friendly development.

Neighbors have opposed a suburban-style loop drive-thru that Century Management said was critical.

Century Management has tweaked the design several times. The most recent change has the store pointed diagonally toward the intersection of Highland and Southern.

However, Office of Planning and Development staff recommended rejecting the site plan because it doesn’t hug the sidewalk or have enough “transparency,” or windows. OPD staff said the McDonald’s should line Highland and that the drive-thru lane be located only on the building’s east side.

Cecil C. Humphreys Jr., a member of the UNDC and major property owner in the area, said in a letter to OPD staff that one of the reasons he continues to invest in the area is the overlay and the design standards it promotes.

“A substantial factor in my investment in the area is and has been the existence of the overlay,” said Humphreys, who recently purchased the YMCA on Walker and plans to convert the property into retail and restaurant space.

“The goals and provisions of the overlay have given me comfort to know that other adjacent or nearby developments will be built in a manner that benefits not just the land owner but the area in general.”

“The applicant knew of the existence and contents of the overlay when they decided to put the proposed site under contingent contract,” Humphreys continued. “They should be required to comply with the same as other developments in the area and should not be allowed to set a precedent that might eventually destroy all that the neighborhoods have worked toward.”