An old Maryville funeral home previously set to be renovated could be getting the ax after a design board voted to tear it down and replace it with a drive-thru restaurant.

The Maryville Downtown Design Review Board unanimously voted July 8 for the former Memorial Funeral Home on South Washington Street to be demolished. Board members simultaneously approved the building of a new drive-thru establishment — yet another commercial addition to an area already burgeoning with development.

“The building has lost its architectural or historic integrity,” city Senior Planner Kelly Duggan told board members, explaining why Development Services staff thought the building had to go. “This building is lacking architectural interest, and the building that is proposed will be a definite improvement.”

Old designs for the building were not too far off from its new proposed uses.

Plans approved by Maryville planning commissioners in March 2018 proposed the late funeral home be converted to a combined 2,328-square-foot drive-thru restaurant and 1,465-square-foot retail space.

Ultimately, however, builders and city staff decided the place wasn’t worth saving. Board members agreed.

“Any discussion about the demolition of this high-quality building?” board Member Gary Best asked with a smile during the July meeting.

“Go for it,” said board member Sarah Shepherd, laughing.

“Pedestrian-friendly” South Washington

But there was a more nuanced discussion about what the new structure would look like and how it would be set up.

The project’s architect, Cory Griffis, explained the design would follow the same standards as the the new Dunkin’ set to open July 23: the Jones Avenue brick house turned donut shop had to adjust branding colors and style to comply with design guidelines on the street, Griffis indicated.

The new structure will have to follow suit.

Board member Anita Blatnik and Vice Chair Suzette Donovan were concerned less with exterior design than how the area would be set up, asking to know how a crosswalk extending across the proposed area’s parking lot and drive-thru lanes.

Best — also part of Maryville’s Board of Zoning Appeals — said the BZA’s previous approval of the building’s setback and the subsequent crosswalk were to change the way people interact with South Washington Street.

“The whole thought was ... we want Washington Street to be more pedestrian friendly,” Best said, adding they didn’t want people traversing the space to feel like they were moving through traffic.

Board members also asked if designers would consider moving the drive-thru to the back of the building, but Griffis said another configuration could cause traffic to bleed onto South Washington Street and cause unnecessary traffic.

Without further questions, the board unanimously approved the building of the new drive-thru restaurant design.

There was no indication as to what the restaurant would be. “It’s not my place to say,” Griffis said when Best asked for hints, adding “I think they’re thinking of a fast, casual-type place.”

Andrew joined The Daily Times in 2019 and covers city government and breaking news.

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