I visited the campus that McDonald's is trying to convince Amazon to buy before it's abandoned - here's why that's an amazing idea for both companies

mcd hotel

Kate Taylor

McDonald's campus could be the perfect fit for Amazon's HQ2 - but a few paintings may not make the cut.

  • McDonald's is leaving its longtime headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois, this spring.
  • The fast-food giant's more than 100 acres of land in the Chicago suburb is one site that has been proposed for Amazon's second headquarters project, called HQ2.
  • Business Insider visited the headquarters and saw why McDonald's soon-to-be-abandoned campus could be a good fit for Amazon.

Amazon has a long list of demands for its new headquarters. Beyond finding the perfect city, the e-commerce giant needs to find a site with up to eight million square feet of space, a good quality of life, and easy access to an international airport. Advertisement

Fortunately for Amazon, there's another industry giant abandoning its headquarters just as Amazon is searching for a second home: McDonald's.

The fast-food chain is moving its headquarters from Chicago suburb Oak Brook, Illinois, to the city proper in the first half of 2018. And, it wants Amazon to take over its soon-to-be abandoned campus.

I recently had a chance to visit McDonald's headquarters - and saw why the property could be the perfect fit for Amazon.
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McDonald's headquarters are located in a suburb of Chicago called Oak Brook.

McDonald's headquarters are located in a suburb of Chicago called Oak Brook.

McDonald's campus is located about 20 minutes from Chicago O'Hare International Airport and roughly half an hour from downtown Chicago.

McDonald's campus is located in a woodsy area with two ponds, boxed in by a country club and sports fields.

McDonald's campus is located in a woodsy area with two ponds, boxed in by a country club and sports fields.

McDonald's actually owns some of the sports fields, with a youth soccer league using it for practices and games, according to The Chicago Tribune.

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McDonald's campus is roughly 74 acres. It's a sizable patch of land containing two small lakes, a walking path, hotel, office buildings, and employee-training site Hamburger University.

McDonald's campus is roughly 74 acres. It's a sizable patch of land containing two small lakes, a walking path, hotel, office buildings, and employee-training site Hamburger University.

In sum, McDonald's owns about 150 acres of land in Oak Brook, which could be packaged together in a deal for another super-sized company like Amazon.

I first visited the Lodge, which looks like a pretty standard old-school Hyatt from the outside.

I first visited the Lodge, which looks like a pretty standard old-school Hyatt from the outside.

A statue called "The Strongest Bond," celebrating the work of the charity Ronald McDonald House, stands outside the Hyatt.

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Entering the hotel, it's easy to be lulled into the feeling that you aren't, in fact, on McDonald's campus.

Entering the hotel, it's easy to be lulled into the feeling that you aren't, in fact, on McDonald's campus.

Then, you catch a glimpse of one of the pieces of art hanging on the wall.

Then, you catch a glimpse of one of the pieces of art hanging on the wall.
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The variety of McDonald's-themed works of art is truly incredible.

The variety of McDonald's-themed works of art is truly incredible.

Other than that, it's a lovely hotel — normal in every way, except the fact that Ronald McDonald lurks around every corner.

Other than that, it's a lovely hotel — normal in every way, except the fact that Ronald McDonald lurks around every corner.
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And yes, it has restaurants — and not fast food. In fact, a sign warns that visitors are not allowed to bring outside food into the lounge.

And yes, it has restaurants — and not fast food. In fact, a sign warns that visitors are not allowed to bring outside food into the lounge.

The same atmosphere pervades McDonald's campus as a whole — something that makes it ideal for Amazon ownership. There may be touches of the fast-food giant's presence, but it is far from overwhelming.

The same atmosphere pervades McDonald's campus as a whole — something that makes it ideal for Amazon ownership. There may be touches of the fast-food giant's presence, but it is far from overwhelming.
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On my self-guided tour of the campus, I was struck by how scenic — and expansive — the campus was.

On my self-guided tour of the campus, I was struck by how scenic — and expansive — the campus was.

First stop: Hamburger University, which is connected to the Hyatt by a bridge. McDonald's opened the $40 million facility in 1983.

First stop: Hamburger University, which is connected to the Hyatt by a bridge. McDonald's opened the $40 million facility in 1983.

More than 275,000 students have graduated from the fast-food chain's training program, which has "universities" across the world. The week-long training program focuses on leadership development, business growth, and operations, and is intended to prepare McDonald's workers for managerial positions in the restaurant business.

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A "Hamburger University" flag flies alongside the American flag outside.

A "Hamburger University" flag flies alongside the American flag outside.

But again, the McDonald's branding is minimal amidst the sculptures and winding walking paths.

But again, the McDonald's branding is minimal amidst the sculptures and winding walking paths.
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Despite the chilly weather, it is a lovely campus to walk around.

Despite the chilly weather, it is a lovely campus to walk around.

Last stop: McDonald's offices.

Last stop: McDonald's offices.
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McDonald's has a bigger office — McDonald's Plaza — that could additionally serve as part of a packaged deal for Amazon or other buyers. Combined, the two locations host roughly 3,000 corporate employees.

McDonald's has a bigger office — McDonald's Plaza — that could additionally serve as part of a packaged deal for Amazon or other buyers. Combined, the two locations host roughly 3,000 corporate employees.

Amazon is looking for a site that can hold up to as many as 50,000 workers — but office space for 3,000 is a good start, especially since the campus has so much empty land.

Inside, the on-campus headquarters has everything the typical workspace would — plus a test kitchen and a fully-functioning McDonald's.

Inside, the on-campus headquarters has everything the typical workspace would — plus a test kitchen and a fully-functioning McDonald's.
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Ultimately, the specific offices are less crucial to Amazon's pick for HQ2 than the space's potential.

Ultimately, the specific offices are less crucial to Amazon's pick for HQ2 than the space's potential.

McDonald's soon-to-be-ex-headquarters fit many of Amazon's qualifications, in both size and location.

McDonald's soon-to-be-ex-headquarters fit many of Amazon's qualifications, in both size and location.

"With our access to both airports, downtown, and having some of the best schools in the state for the executives that might live here, it's a great fit," Oak Brook Village Trustee John Baar told The Daily Herald.

Baar continued: "We're tremendously excited to be part of this mission to land Amazon."

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Oak Brook could certainly use the replacement. McDonald's exodus has sent shockwaves through the suburb.

Oak Brook could certainly use the replacement. McDonald's exodus has sent shockwaves through the suburb.

McDonald's is Oak Brook's second-biggest employer, and it donates some $100,000 to the town annually. Local retailers rely on McDonald's corporate workers for business. And, with the headquarters moving downtown, there's concern that a number of employees will follow suit.

It's not in the depths of a city, so if Amazon wants to be in an urban center, they can look elsewhere — including eight proposed sites in Chicago proper. But, as I walked around the campus, I was impressed by the tranquility of the campus and the potential of the space.

It's not in the depths of a city, so if Amazon wants to be in an urban center, they can look elsewhere — including eight proposed sites in Chicago proper. But, as I walked around the campus, I was impressed by the tranquility of the campus and the potential of the space.
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It makes sense that McDonald's wants to leave as it works to improve its reputation and modernize the business. A more suburban spot for Amazon, however, could boost the company's reputation in different ways.

It makes sense that McDonald's wants to leave as it works to improve its reputation and modernize the business. A more suburban spot for Amazon, however, could boost the company's reputation in different ways.

As tech companies are blasted as being out-of-touch with the average American, moving the e-commerce giant to a more suburban location could be a bonus. McDonald's has long been involved in the local community, and its absence could give Amazon a chance to step up and do the same.

Further, McDonald's has been a symbol of American business across the globe for the last six decades. As Amazon's ambitions grow, it is increasingly becoming a new symbol of the nation.

Further, McDonald's has been a symbol of American business across the globe for the last six decades. As Amazon's ambitions grow, it is increasingly becoming a new symbol of the nation.
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As Amazon searches for its new headquarters, it is lucky enough to be looking at a time when an empty campus of another industry leader is up for grabs. Why shouldn't the e-commerce giant snatch up McDonald's campus while it is free?

As Amazon searches for its new headquarters, it is lucky enough to be looking at a time when an empty campus of another industry leader is up for grabs. Why shouldn't the e-commerce giant snatch up McDonald's campus while it is free?