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Bel Air Plaza McDonald's to be demolished and rebuilt

Work is under way on the renovation of the McDonald's in Bel Air Plaza. The existing building will be replaced by a new one, and improvements will be made to traffic flow to and from the drive-through.
Work is under way on the renovation of the McDonald's in Bel Air Plaza. The existing building will be replaced by a new one, and improvements will be made to traffic flow to and from the drive-through.(ALLAN VOUGHT | AEGIS STAFF, The Aegis)

Fans of the Golden Arches will have to drive a little bit farther to enjoy a Big Mac meal, as the McDonald's in Bel Air Plaza on Route 1 has closed for a major facelift.

The popular Bel Air Plaza fast-food restaurant, which closed last week, is set to be demolished and completely rebuilt in the same spot, said Kevin Small, the town's planning director.

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Small said the new building will be about roughly the same size as the one it is replacing.

Dump trucks and construction equipment moved onto the site late last week and began tearing up the parking and drive-through area. Small said he believes the construction workers also have begun to clear out the inside of the fast food restaurant.

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During a Bel Air Planning Commission meeting in April 2013, Lee May, McDonald's USA's area construction manager for the Baltimore-Washington region, said the original restaurant was built in 1974, making it one of the older McDonald's in Harford County; it was also the first built in the greater Bel Air area.

There have been periodic past cosmetic renovations. May said last spring the new building's design will be in keeping with upgrades McDonald's and its franchisees are making to restaurants around the country.

When May appeared before the planning commission, members had reservations about the appearance, other aesthetics and traffic flow, the latter which May admitted had been a recurring problem with the drive-through set up in particular.

According to Small, Valek Zarski of Baltimore Land Design Group Inc. is the civil engineer responsible for the renovation.

The restaurant has been approved for demolition, Small said, but he is not sure when that will begin, nor did he know when the whole project will be completed.

The replacement building will be more contemporary looking, with a brick exterior and stone facade on select portions, according to a rendering given to the town.

Small also said the layout will change, noting the old configuration caused traffic to back up on Route 1 as customers tried to enter the parking lot and drive-through lanes.

For years, customers accessed the drive-through by coming off Route 1 down the slight hill, crossing an access drive shared with Bel Air Plaza – with stop signs in three directions – and then looping to the right to place an order, pay at a standalone both and finally pick up their order at a window facing the Mars supermarket.

Small said the building's new drive-through will wind around the building to prevent stacking of vehicles waiting to place and receive orders.

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