McDonald’s is gearing up to pull a fast one on the Highland Strip by creating a sibling location, not exactly a twin, intending to prove to city council that they don’t have to build to code on the corner of South Highland St.
Heirs to the Madison family’s real estate fortune, who own the shopping center, seem to be holding out for a buyer, and it appears McDonald’s may be the winner. The corporation is taking some curious steps to help the living wage and obesity endemic/epidemic in Memphis.
The property appears to not adhere to any safety codes.
James Sexton, the owner of Whatever located in the strip, said he believes this is because the family has managed to maintain historically complicated ownership rights to the land. They haven’t had to fix a leaking roof in quite some time.
And the Madison heirs, Marion Madison, Harry Madison Jr. and Sally Walton, seem to be entangled in a family disagreement, Sexton said.
If McDonald’s wants to build to code, the simple reality is that they have a right to come in, Sexton said.
Eric Schlosser’s book “Fast Food Nation” provides a plethora of trivia and accounts on how fast food is inextricably interwoven in the marketing machine and how the company's operations have hurt communities who welcome them.
The shopping center is the size of a football field, but McDonald’s would like to occupy less than 9 percent of the total area they would be purchasing.
“The Memphis Model of 300 feet of asphalt before you get to the front door is what we’re trying to get away from,” said Leah Dawkins, a community redevelopment liaison at the University of Memphis. .
She added that the concern is that if the building is too small it would propel a stereotype of Memphis that is outside of the community’s vision.
Overlay regulations, vision and function should be integral in deciding what to accomplish with the crown jewel of South Highland.
Dawkins sees value in prepared foods for people on the go, but it needs to be made with a reasonable amount of integrity.
“It’s sad, because of the nostalgia and associations I have with this building, but I’m ready to move on to the next place,” Sexton said.
Whatever's new shop will be located at 555 S. Highland St.
It is still unclear how the new place would affect current employees at the current McDonald's on 657 Highland St., who seemed despondent when asked if they were privy to the grand plan and whose manager was unavailable for comment at the time.
City Councilman Harold Collins, who is the head of the housing committee, was unable to give a statement over the phone due to being in a meeting.
City Council members will review the scope of McDonald’s design plans to decide whether the overlay design is up to par beginning on Oct. 15 around 3:30 p.m.