MADAWASKA, Maine — After months of sitting empty, the Madawaska McDonald’s building is being demolished this week to make room for a new border crossing station. 

After the General Services Administration announced in the fall of 2019 that the government wanted to acquire the property that was home to the 48-year-old McDonald’s to put in a new land port of entry, Madawaska residents made a plea to Corporate McDonald’s to rebuild the fast-food chain restaurant at another location in town. The relocated border crossing is being done in conjunction with the new international bridge project being built over the St. John River, spanning between Madawaska and Edmunston, New Brunswick.

Despite the local plea, the government obtained the land and the franchise remained open for another two years before it officially closed its doors to the people of Madawaska on Oct. 16, 2021, without the promise of relocation. 

Demolition begins on the Madawaska McDonald’s for the new Land Port of Entry on Apr. 8. Credit: Emily Jerkins / St. John Valley Times

The building remained intact for almost half a year, still the only structure standing at the site of the new land port of entry, while heavy machinery broke ground around it. 

Demolition of the building began on Thursday. Though the foundation and general structure were still standing, the building has been stripped of its siding, windows broken in and excavators could be seen tearing pieces off the building from the top down. 

Along with the new border crossing station by the GSA comes the international bridge — a collaborative project between Independent contractor Reed & Reed of Woolwich and New Brunswick-based Greenfield Construction, along with the Maine and New Brunswick transportation departments. 

The land port of entry is projected to be essentially complete and operational in late 2023, which coincides with the opening of Maine Department of Transportation’s International Bridge Project. For now, the existing century-old bridge is in use, though a weight limit was imposed in 2017.

Madawaska Code Enforcement Officer Denise Duperre said it is difficult to see a long-time business being torn down, but the deteriorating roads and bridges need to be addressed, especially in Madawaska, where the old bridge has been restricted to 5 tons for years now.

Demolition begins on the Madawaska McDonald’s for the new Land Port of Entry on Apr. 8. Credit: Emily Jerkins / St. John Valley Times

“I’m thankful that Madawaska’s International Port of Entry has gotten the much needed attention and growth opportunities, especially for commerce, and those that cross daily for work or recreation. This new bridge and customs is much needed for our town, our local businesses, Twin Rivers and commodity transport businesses, just to name a few,” Duperre said.