McDonald’s Buying the Detroit Theatre a Done Deal?

City hosting a meeting on Wednesday at the Lakewood Public Library to discuss the fast-food giant's plan to raze Lakewood landmark to build restaurant.

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.”

Alex Vandehoff June 14, 2011 at 12:40 PM
sigh...... i can accept the theater being gone. but mcdonald's? blech.
Alan R. June 14, 2011 at 01:00 PM
Why is everyone so down on McDonald's? At least it's not going to be a White Castle.
Peter Grossetti June 14, 2011 at 03:58 PM
@ Alan R. - just watch the movie "Super Size Me"!
Julie Hutchison June 15, 2011 at 03:22 AM
Is this building an historic landmark? Where is the historic preservationist and the urban planning lawyer?
Pat Ballasch June 15, 2011 at 05:59 PM
I'm reminded of a Target Store in Rocky River that had a fair amount of opposition. Some felt it was beneath the standard of the city. Target turned out to be a sharp, clean, well run store offering good value. A positive for McDonald's is they can afford to maintain their property. Anyone familiar with the Detroit Theater is aware of the poor condition it's been in for years. We have plenty of spaces in this city needing champions to find viable re-uses. Lets identify structures with the greatest architectural & historic value and focus some real energy on them.
DCKline June 15, 2011 at 09:21 PM
Before: the smell of the greasepaint; After: the smell of the grease.
kandysmom June 16, 2011 at 10:46 AM
To Mr. Barr's comment. I did go to the theatre, quite regularly at first, but it was dirty. I have small children and would take wipes with me because I don't think the restroom was cleaned very well. When you started bringing in the first run movies, that really seemed to be the beginning of the end. I miss the theatre, and I do wish it would reopen, but not in the condition it was in. It would really be nice to have a theatre with 1 large screen, clean carpet, clean restrooms, and a nice snackbar area.
Alex Vandehoff June 16, 2011 at 12:20 PM
Pat - I see your point about Target. However, retail and fast food are rather different beasts. I won't be a complete hypocrite, I indulge in fast food from time to time, and yes even sometimes McDs. But one already exists on Sloan (I know, they want to relocate) as well as 117th and 150th. That's quite a few McDs in a smallish area. How about some variety? Speaking of that old Target location - seems like a good place for an Ikea to me....
Alan R. June 16, 2011 at 01:02 PM
The Sloane location wants to move to the Detroit Theater location so there would still be only 2 Mcdonalds in Lakewood. The old Sloane location would probably get purchased by another fast-food joint. Popeye's? Rally's? Arby's? KFC?
Peter Grossetti June 16, 2011 at 01:51 PM
And will Lakewood citizens raise a stink about another fast food restaurant taking over the old McD's spot on Sloane?
Peter Grossetti June 16, 2011 at 01:56 PM
The Detroit Theatre was a "discount theatre" where you didn't have to pay $8 a head like you do at Valley View Cinemark or Crocker Park's Regal. You get what you pay for!
John Marcus August 06, 2011 at 12:58 PM
I just stumbled on to this article and checked out another article that shows a proposed site plan. I am in real estate development and first of all Mcd's won't hand over a check to the owner until they have building permits in hand. That will be a contingency of the purchase contract. Secondly, the site layout is very bad. That's what the planning commission needs to focus on. The cars exiting the drive thru will barely have enough room to be able to turn parallel onto Woodward without being at an angle. Making a left turn onto Detroit will be difficult and there could be a snarl if the drive through is backed up. I am suprised there is a curb cut on Woodward so close to Detroit and that McD's would consider this layout?


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