The theater that stood on Detroit Avenue for almost 90 years now faces a wrecking ball, as fast-food giant McDonald’s inches toward a deal to buy the landmark and plant the Golden Arches in its place.
According to multiple sources — including the property owner — McDonald’s is getting close to finalizing its purchase of the abandoned for nearly $700,000.
And there’s little the city can do about it.
“The fact is that in this country when an owner of private property chooses to sell, and the zoning code — which controls what happens on that property — says that a buyer who has a use that’s permitted shows up, frankly, there’s nothing we can do to stop that,” said Mayor Michael Summers.
“If we were in fact to say ‘no, no, no, you can’t do it,’ when in fact the zoning code says you can, we’d very likely be sued — and we’d very likely lose that suit.”
City officials are hosting a forum at the at 7 p.m. Wednesday to address residents’ concerns. A developer will also be on hand to answer questions.
Summers said the city can still influence the design of the structure — and its impact on the neighborhood — with the planning commission and Architectural Board of Review.
“In this instance, the property is zoned for a restaurant,” he said. “McDonald’s is a restaurant, and the seller wants to sell it to McDonalds and we believe McDonald’s wants to buy it. The issue goes from there. Now we’ve got to make sure it fits well for Lakewood.”
The building — at 16409 Detroit Avenue — has been on the market for years with a price tag of $695,000, but gained little interest. With declining attendance in an industry that has struggled to remain financially viable, the earlier this year after 87 years.
The building’s owner Norman Barr said that McDonald’s is interested in his property, but added that he doesn’t yet have a “check in hand.”
“We have not signed any papers,” Barr said.
He said that after years of owning the Lakewood landmark, maintaining the theater became a difficult financial task.
“Everybody’s crying that the theater is closing but where were they over the last few years?”
The folks at McDonald’s aren’t saying much.
An employee at the Sloane Avenue location declined to comment, and representatives from the multi-national corporation have not returned multiple calls seeking comment.
In April, city officials learned that McDonald's was looking to relocate its Sloane Avenue location — which opened in the 1960s, when the thoroughfare was more widely traveled.
Other undisclosed locations were eyed, before McDonald's settled on the Detroit Theatre for a new restaurant.
Two other tenants in the building, Erie Design and the Hot Spot food mart, would be displaced if the deal goes through.
Shawn Warren, the co-owner of said, he is actively looking for a new location, but like everyone else, he is waiting for the meeting Wednesday to learn more.
“I’d rather have it a McDonald’s than sit here empty,” Warren said. “It’ll never be a theater again — we have to get past that.”