Wilmette, News

McDonald’s nabs Baker’s Square site — but will Wilmette have the appetite for it?

Interest in the vacant Baker’s Square site has reheated about 10 months after a failed attempt to redevelop the property.

But does the new suitor have the special sauce to make neighbors and officials say, “I’m Lovin’ It”?

McDonald’s has acquired the property at 200 Skokie Blvd according to Wilmette officials who gave an economic presentation during the Wilmette Village Board meeting on Tuesday, June 27. The site was home to Baker’s Square until 2019 and a failed effort to build a third location for the Murray Bros. Caddyshack restaurant between 2020-2022.

In a memo to the Village Board, Asst. Director of Community Development Lucas Sivertsen wrote that while McDonald’s only recently signed a lease for the property, the Village has been aware of the fast-food giant’s interest in the site since at least November 2022.

The vacant building at 200 Skokie Blvd. in Wilmette used to be home to Baker’s Square until 2019. | THE RECORD FILE PHOTO

Village staff reportedly met with the property’s neighbors around that time.

“Based on the feedback from the meeting, the Village shared with the property owner and McDonald’s, the challenges of getting neighborhood support, Village Staff support and ultimately Village Board approval,” Sivertsen wrote, adding that a followup meeting was held in this month (June).

Mcdonald’s has submitted a site plan but not a zoning application, and the restaurant has the intention of building a standalone building that includes a drive-thru, Sivertsen’s memo says. The proposal would at least need board approval of a variation for the drive-thru and special use for a limited-service restaurant, according to the memo.

Village Manager Mike Braiman said in a message to The Record that nearby residents were “universally opposed to the concept.”

“The residents expressed significant concerns with the various impacts of a drive-thru on their neighborhood and were universally opposed to the concept,” he said. “We have shared these concerns with McDonald’s representatives multiple times.”

While Wilmette has a Subway location, it does have any drive-thru fast-food options; though, the town does have multiple Starbucks locations, including one with a a drive-thru, and fast-casual chains, such as Five Guys Burgers and Fries, Panda Express, Jimmy John’s and Dairy Queen.

Nearby McDonald’s locations include on Green Bay Road in Winnetka (no drive-thru) and on Dempster Street in Skokie and Evanston.

Braiman said he does not remember a major drive-thru-restaurant chain, such as McDonald’s or Wendy’s, attempting to build in Wilmette since he began with the Village in 2008. But he said Wilmette is open to “all types of restaurants” and the village code allows for drive-thrus on large-enough lots.

“I think the community needs a plethora of dining options, including fast-food,” he said. ” … We certainly welcome (the concept) and encourage it. It’s just going to be site specific. We’ll see how McDonald’s plans to mitigate concerns.

Braiman said typical concerns with drive-thrus include noise, trash and carlights, but the village is “not prejudging their application.”

The zoning review process for McDonald’s could begin in September but not earlier, said Sivertsen, who said the village expects McDonald’s to submit a zoning application in the coming weeks.

The condition of the property at 200 Skokie Blvd. has been the subject of scrutiny for more than a year. Neighbors have complained about the site’s upkeep, including overgrown vegetation, scattered trash, limited security and unkempt property lines.

In his memo, Sivertsen reports that the Village issued multiple fines of $25,000 to the property owners, who reportedly have agreed to install a new 8-foot fence along the north and east property lines.

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joe coughlin
Joe Coughlin

Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319

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