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River North’s Rock ‘N’ Roll McDonald’s tapped for futuristic makeover

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The flagship fast food restaurant will trade its kitschy decor for a modern design


McDonald’s is demolishing its iconic Rock ‘N’ Roll restaurant in River North for a sleek eco-friendly “store of the future” penned by design architect Ross Barney Architects with interiors by Landini Associates. The extensive remodel trades in its 60-foot golden arches and kitschy rock memorabilia for a bright, plant-filled interior surrounded by new green space.

Reusing only the old building’s kitchen, the updated restaurant at 600 N. Clark Street will feature a broad, overhanging pergola topped by solar panels. Beneath, its glass-walled dining area will connect to new outdoor spaces including a park-like patio and a dedicated pickup area for mobile orders.

Inside, the theme of sustainability continues with living fern walls, a cross laminated timber structural system, and a mini-orchard of harvestable apple trees visible though a clerestory window. Guests will be able to order from a traditional counter or high-tech self-serve kiosks under McDonald’s so-called “Experience of the Future” initiative.

The redesigned interior arguably looks more like an Apple Store than a burger joint.

The new building comes from the firm of local architect Carol Ross Barney, who is behind projects such as the Chicago Riverwalk, the CTA’s renovated Belmont Blue Line station, and an all-new welcome pavilion at the Lincoln Park Zoo. “Designing for McDonald’s is designing for America. We wanted to create a space that is authentic, light filled, and constructed of natural materials,” said Barney.

McDonald’s evolving design philosophy is the latest measure by the fast food giant to remain fresh and relevant. The company plans to bring its new futuristic experiential concept to 4,000 more stores this year and aims to have most of the country’s freestanding restaurants converted by 2020.

Arguably the biggest shift in the company’s culture is set to take place this spring when McDonald’s plans to move from its suburban Oak Brook campus to a new corporate headquarters in the heart of Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood.

“Chicago, soon to be the home of our new headquarters, is special to our brand and we are proud to partner with our local franchisee on this one-of-a-kind restaurant that takes the McDonald’s dining experience to a whole new level,” said McDonald’s U.S. President Chris Kempczinski in a statement.

The old McDonald’s oversized golden arches have come down.
Jay Koziarz