Neighbors from the University District banded together at City Hall Tuesday, Oct. 15, to hold SR consulting firm accountable for stalling the vote and to keep a wrap around drive-thru loop out of the design plans.
The University Neighborhoods Development Corporation (UNDC) explained to the council that McDonald's has no intention to let go of their design ideas that go against the flow of the overlay.
Earlier that afternoon a couple of government relations’ workers including community liaison, Leah Dawkins, from the University of Memphis went before Chairman Harold Collins’ Land Use committee.
"Collins told us that he is sending it downstairs to open session because there is a lot of public opposition," Dawkins said. "It is considered a hot-button issue."
Attorney David Wade spoke as a representative for the UNDC explaining to council the overlay violations at hand.
The UNDC team went so far as to show city council a handful of McDonald’s overlay designs the company came up with for other cities.
Reaves argued that Memphis does not have the same amount of foot traffic akin to bigger cities and that a loop drive-thru is the only thing that will get customers in and out of the fast food chain in a money-making fashion, which the franchisees of McDonald's require.
Reaves made it clear that neither McDonald’s nor the franchise owners view the University district as pedestrian friendly - almost entirely evading the fact that chain intends to transplant their store by what will become the welcome entrance to the University District, which is according to the overlay design plans.
“Phase one of the overlay plan is set in motion to transform Brister Street to Walker Avenue into a visually striking grand entrance that will have wide sidewalks,” said Dawkins, who brought the petition to the council that afternoon along with some University cohorts.
After the vote, about 40 people walked out of the meeting in solidarity. The UDistrict social media page describes the emotional ruling after a majority of the council, including Shea Flinn, Harold Collins and Wanda Halbert vocalized their deference to the corporation.
Collins told a story about working at the current McDonald's on Highland back in college, but did not understand why they won't stick with the location they already own as it less than a block away.
“City Council voted to delay the vote to at least Dec. 17 and sent McDonald's back to OPD to redraft. Back to the drawing board. This means we go BACK to the Land Use Control Board for a do-over, then BACK to City Council. Don't lose momentum, UD. We need to pull together now more than ever!”
Paul Garner, an organization director at the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center, said he does not think it's a good idea for a company that doesn’t provide a living wage to occupy the space period. Garner was not surprised the council gave the company deference after the community has waited for five-months for resolve.
Garner attended a press conference earlier that day speaking out against McDonald's violations of worker's rights.
"McDonald's corporation does not meet the needs of the community in that area. $7.25 an hour is not caring about the people who live in our community," Garner said, who later posted a notice of an event on his social media for workers in fast food to openly discuss the imbalances in the workplace environment.