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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Old KFCs Are Buildings Too

My wish for the New Year is simple: Let no vital structure go vacant or get demolished.

Shown above is one of the countless road side examples of the infinite adaptability of even the ugliest American buildings. The La Gondola Restaurant at 2855 North Water Street in Decatur, Illinois is located in a former Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant. La Gondola's rehab of the iconic fast food building consisted of new signage and repainting. Removal of the bucket of chicken was not on the agenda, and thus La Gondola has what may be the nation's only bucket of spaghetti sign.

I write "may" because the excellent website Not Fooling Anybody shows us that La Gondola's rehab of an old KFC is in the middle of fast food conversions, which range from inconspicuous total cover-up to oddities like the chiropractic office that retains a KFC bucket sign.

La Gondola is no stranger to converting fast food buildings: the La Gondola Restaurant in Galesburg is located in a converted Mr. Quick Hamburgers restaurant. La Gondola is a central Illinois chain that makes use of the cast-offs of another chain. That practice makes perfect sense, since smaller chains don't have the capital that a mega-chain like KFC does. La Gondola saves money, an old KFC doesn't sit vacant or get torn down and hungry Illinoisans still have a place to get a quick bite right where they used to.

The simple model of reuse practiced by La Gondola is not glamorous, but it works economically as well as ecologically. While an old KFC is not architecturally or urbanistically high-style, it's still a building made of shaped and processed natural resources. When reused, those resources are saved.


Anonymous said...

The marketing research for place is done, it's got restaurant stuff/space, zoned, etc. Makes perfect sense to go in there with a lower overhead (no franchise fees). And the Bucket of Kitsch. Bravissimo!

Daron said...

Are those supposed to be roman columns on the sign?

I'm very curious about the interior of that building.

Doug Duckworth said...

You see the Hardees demo and replacement on Hampton? I don't understand why we need a new one and I wish it would have taken a more urban form.

We need public policies that promote better new construction if demolition occurs.

Anonymous said...

Doug, let's consider the location of the Hardee's you describe.

It's right across the street from a brand new highway motor hotel (the Drury), and next to two other highway motor hotels (a Red Roof Inn and a Holiday Inn), it fronts Hampton - a city street more akin to a highway than an urban commercial strip, and it's next to an interstate highway onramp, an overpass and a drive through car wash. And you suggest this building should be more urban?

Context man, context!

Oh, and why do they want a new one? Because the old one was worn out, fully depreciated, and obsolete compared to what they have set for their new corporate strategy.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like Michael is advocating what Paul Goldberger calls "Preservation Fundamentalism." It's bad for architecture, and it's bad for cities.

Michael R. Allen said...

No, I am not advocating "preservation fundamentalism." Lots of buildings are beyond saving or not worth the cost of saving. Others are not. Those that can be saved need not retain their original appearance.

This old KFC could be expanded out to the sidewalk, clad in metal sheathing, or taken up another floor, and I would be pleased with the result. I don't consider an old KFC restaurant to be worthy of preservation as-is, just worthy of preservation from an ecological standpoint.

I am advocating wise use. Maybe I'm a LEED fundamentalist.

Anonymous said...

Doug, I agree with what the other Anonymous said - did you know the same thing is scheduled to happen a mile north, once this project is complete, with the Hardee's on Oakland at Hampton? Maybe you can "influence" them, to "see the light", before they get started? ;)