The need for a local business owner to stay competitive trumped nostalgia for the Libertyville village board, which has approved exterior changes to the distinctive retro McDonald's on the north end of town.
Trustees on Tuesday unanimously overrode a recommendation by the village's advisory Architectural Review Commission and voted to allow new building facades, lighting and signs for the restaurant at 1330 N. Milwaukee Ave.
"It's your business," Trustee Scott Adams told owner Christopher Prucnal. "It's probably not my favorite design, but you're the one in there day to day."
The decision wasn't as difficult as it might have been for village officials, as the requested changes mainly involve the color scheme and lighting of the restaurant.
The reproduction original golden arches will be retrofitted with LED lights but remain. So will a free-standing sign fronting Milwaukee Avenue featuring the "Speedee" cartoon logo dating to the early days of the fast food giant.
The advisory group by a 3-0 vote rejected any changes, saying the throwback building fit Libertyville's historic character. Prucnal appealed the decision so it would be considered by the village board.
"I'm not unsympathetic to what's going on here," Architectural Review Commission Chairman John Robbins explained. "We were concerned that we have been looking at was a watered-down compromise."
Trustees agreed the retro look fit the community but said businesses need to do what is required to keep pace with the market.
"I also believe property owners and business owners have a right to make decision regarding their property," Mayor Terry Weppler said.
Prucnal, who owns a dozen McDonald's from Glenview to Libertyville, bought the retro model about 15 months ago. It opened at that location in 1958 as the 31st McDonald's in the U.S. but was modified several times. A custom-built replacement honoring the original opened in 2002.
Prucnal said the north Libertyville location is among a few retro-style McDonald's in the Chicago area, and one of about 100 in the U.S.
Since he bought it, the corporation began a process of remodeling and updating all 14,000 U.S. locations with a standard set of designs. Prucnal also owns a McDonald's to the west on Peterson Road that will require an interior makeover.
"When we got into these locations this was not a national initiative," he said.
Prucnal said he initially resisted the changes but is bound by the corporate directive.
The retro building is 15 years old and will need work within a few years in any case, he said.
In light of changing consumer habits, stores will be updating menus and taking other initiatives, he added.
"This is an opportunity for us to position this restaurant and hopefully be relevant for the next 15 or 20 years," Prucnal said.