For some, it was where they worked their first job. Others remembered how busy it was when it opened back in the 1980s with teens and families enjoying a famous drive-through restaurant.

Now it’s rubble.

The former McDonald’s at The Junction shopping center in Sonora, which closed about three years ago when the franchise moved to Sanguinetti Road, was razed on Tuesday with a few scoops of a demolition excavator known by the crew as the Jaws of Life.

A drive-through and expanded Starbucks will be built on the site and opened sometime in July. The restaurant chain Strings Italian Cafe will take the place of the current Starbucks at The Junction.

At 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday, the yellow arm of Howell Construction’s excavator tore into the layered shingles on the upper facade of the building.

By the early afternoon, only the cement shell remained upright. Along the edge of the building, mounds of aluminum and steel, mostly from the air ducts, were piled into a twisted heap. In the interior, sheets of wood, insulation and wire were placed in piles.

All of the demolished building materials will be carted away to a recycling plant before March 30, said Howell Construction Project Supervisor Terry Autry, before the concrete parking lot is excavated down to the dirt and the construction begins.

‘The object of this game is to deploy everything to the inside as much as you can and crush them down,” he said, directing his finger toward the mounting stacks of debris.

“But when we’re done, it’s all going to blend in with the shopping center a little better.”

As of Tuesday, the demolition and construction project was a few weeks behind schedule because of recent stormy weather. The project has been in the works for over two months, The Junction manager Margaret Davis said, and Howell Construction should be able to meet their finished-construction target date of early July.

The new building, according to blueprint schematics in Autry’s possession, will be taller, but utilize fewer square feet than the former McDonald’s.

The building will be just a little more than 2,000 square feet, he said, with an octagonal drive-through lane surrounding the building. A 26-foot patio, set with tables, chairs, and other decorative arrangements, will be adjacent to the front entrance. Two towers, emblazoned with the white and green two-tailed mermaid Starbucks medallion, will stand above the height of the former McDonald’s.

The old McDonald’s was 3,548 square feet, Davis said, but the drive-through and patio seating of the Starbucks building will take up a large portion of the parcel.

Even underneath the building a full renovation is planned. The concrete foundation slab will be removed and reset, as well as the plumbing, Davis said.

The original McDonald’s building was built in 1984 specifically for the business, she said, but it was closed about three years ago when McDonald’s opened its new site on Sanguinetti Road.

The new Starbucks will not have a meeting room like the current Starbucks. The current location opened in 2006, Davis said, and was formerly the site of an Italian restaurant. A new Italian restaurant, Strings Italian Cafe, a Gold Valley-based chain with about 20 locations throughout the Sacramento area and Central Valley, will take up residence in the vacated Starbucks location.

The swap represents a significant shift in the interests of the Sonora commercial public, Davis said.

“I think it's going to help us, because Starbucks really wanted a drive-through and we're going to have a great Italian restaurant here,” she said.

Davis said she does not expect Strings Italian Cafe to be open until fall, because the building and kitchen will be reconfigured.

Davis said that the Starbucks will remain open up until the date of the construction project’s completion, at which point the business will move.

Davis said she does not believe that the Starbucks construction will impact traffic, because the work will be contained inside the fencing system installed next to the KFC.

There are three vacancies at The Junction shopping center, Davis said. Of 239,459 total square feet of rental space, a 2,800 square-foot unit and two 1,600-square-foot units are vacant.

Contact Giuseppe Ricapito at (209) 588-4526 or gricapito@uniondemocrat.com . Follow him on Twitter @gsepinsonora.







19859761