Is the original McDonald's leaving Des Plaines?
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Des Plaines officials say they're not only hopeful the iconic McDonald's Museum remains in town, but that they also can persuade the McDonald's corporation to expand the museum and make it open year-round.
The museum, at 400 Lee St., is on the site of Ray Kroc's first McDonald's walk-up restaurant, which he opened on April 15, 1955. The original building underwent several remodels and was finally torn down in 1984 and replaced with the current structure, a replica built according to the original blueprints.
City Manager Mike Bartholomew said the city's economic development consultant is trying to set up a meeting with McDonald's officials, after rumors surfaced this week they might want to move the museum — or portions of it — to the company's corporate headquarters in Oak Brook. The reason attributed to the rumored move is that the museum is subject to flooding — and in fact was underwater last April when the Des Plaines River overflowed.
"I don't know what we can do to change the condition for them, but at least we can sit down and talk," Bartholomew said.
On Friday, McDonald's spokeswoman Lainey Garcia would say only that "a decision has not been made yet" with respect to the future of the Des Plaines museum.
In a follow-up email, Garcia said McDonald's officials have not spoken with city officials regarding flooding issues but added they would not pick up the entire museum and move it.
"Due to the nature of the construction of the restaurant it would be impossible to dismantle and relocate the museum anywhere," she wrote.
The museum's contents — original kitchen equipment used at the first McDonald's — include grills, a hamburger carousel where burgers were prepared, a hand-operated french-fry peeler, and a wooden barrel dispenser that contained syrup for Coke and root beer.
The future of the original "Speedee" road sign — which advertises 15-cent hamburgers and boasts that "over 1 million" have been sold — is also unclear.
Bartholomew said he hasn't heard of any concrete plans to move the museum or portions of it.
"As near as I know, it's just discussion," he said. "Nobody (from McDonald's) has reached out to us personally."
The museum is open annually between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day weekend for three days a week. Even as a "passive" museum, Bartholomew says it generates foot traffic from visitors.
Bartholomew said he, Mayor Matt Bogusz and the economic development consultant all want to participate in a sit-down meeting with McDonald's brass in hopes of persuading them to keep the museum in Des Plaines. And they plan to make a pitch that there's opportunities to make the Des Plaines location more of an active museum.
"In my own personal experience, when I'm walking home or to lunch, I see it and there's people outside taking pictures. Even in its passive form, some people do visit it," Bartholomew said. "We'll frame it as, 'This is already our home. It's where it was, and let's keep it where it was, because it's our home.'"
Des Plaines 1st Ward Alderman Patricia Haugeberg, who represents the area in which the museum is located, said she has the name and number of a contact at McDonald's and is planning to talk to that person next week.
She expressed disappointment with the possibility that the museum could leave town.
"I'm not thrilled about this at all," Haugeberg said. "(The museum) is a wonderful thing. ... It's one of the icons in Des Plaines."
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