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It has been called a gateway property, targeted in discussions as everything from a parking garage to a significant commercial development, but it appears the future use of the coveted corner at Desplaines Avenue and Madison will not be altogether different from what is already there.

Fast-food giant McDonald’s is poised to expand its existing operation in Forest Park and during a Jan. 5 planning commission meeting laid out plans to rehab the vacant lot on the southeast corner of the intersection. The restaurant chain currently operates a store immediately south of that parcel and is in the process of purchasing the land.

Golden Arches: A rendering of the proposed McDonald’s restaurant shows the site would do away with a towering sign that marks the current location just south of Madison. Courtesy Forest Park

Rich Neubauer manages the rebuilding of McDonald’s restaurants in Chicagoland and told commission members that his company is sensitive to the atmosphere the community is trying create along Madison. The project would include decorative brickwork, outdoor benches and more subdued signage in keeping with the pedestrian friendly neighborhood, said Neubauer. Members of the planning commission spoke favorably of the project and agreed with Neubauer that the corporation had made a sincere effort with its designs.

“All in all, this is an absolute improvement over what’s there right now,” commission member Marcus Muriello said.

For several years now, the visible corner has played host to an abandoned gas station owned by a franchisee of Mobil. Residents and public officials alike have debated how best to use the property, however, many of those discussions were held during a real estate boom that fell flat in 2008. Muriello, a real estate agent by trade, said he too had high hopes for the corner, but the market is going to determine what options the village has.

“We have to take what we have,” Muriello said.

John Plepel also sits on the planning commission but in 2007 ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the village council. Part of Plepel’s platform in that election was to build consensus on how to develop the site.

“I like the idea of multi-use there, but there’s no one willing to invest right now,” said Plepel, who also works in real estate. “Today’s market is the only market we have to deal with.”

According to Neubauer, McDonald’s hopes to break ground in April and open the new restaurant after a four-month build.

The new restaurant would be a single-story property of roughly 4,000-square feet. That is approximately a 30 percent increase on the footprint of the current restaurant.

Because McDonald’s had not submitted a complete set of documents to the village in time for the Jan. 5 meeting, the commission postponed a vote on the plans. That decision, along with a public hearing the same night, is expected to occur at the group’s Feb. 2 meeting.