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Architectural control Architectural design: why formula businesses fear quality

Dan

Dear Leader
Staff member
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17,691
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I just sent an applicant my draft staff report for a themed chain sit-down restaurant proposed in the municipality where I worked. The applicant made some changes to their prototype design, but they stood pat on a few issues that seem minor, mostly involving our four-sided design requirements. They are:

1) Incorporation of mullions into the windows.
2) Adding some pilasters to add visual interest to side walls.
3) Adding brick patterns that resemble window casements or surrounds to continue a fenestration pattern, and
4) Adding details to the service entrance doors to match the level of detail on the main entrance door.
5) Elimination of wall-pack lighting in the dumpster area.

These seemed like fairly minor issues, expecially compared to the changes they did make ... incorporation of brick, eliminarion of neon building outline bands, changing the roof color and materials, and so on. They did make some major changes to their prototype (a Western/icehouse theme steakhouse), but the end result still wasn't up to the standards seen from other freestanding restaurants in the area.

Unfortunately, I had to recommend denial in my staff report. I said

"The proposed design is an improvement over the standard (name of chain) prototype building design, but in the opinion of Planning staff it does not comply with the Commercial Building Appearance Guidelines, and is not designed with the same attention to detail as other freestanding restaurants in the vicinity."

I just got off the phone with the developer's representative. They might pull out of the project ... all over a few details of four-sided design. Why? Because planners in other cities might see the changes that were made here, and demand similar concessions in their towns. "If you can incorporate pilasters on all elevations in (my town), Kansas, why can't you do it here?"

I'm going to stick to my decision, despite the chain's threat of cancelling the project. Every time I've heard a chain say they were pulling out of a project because of design issues, it never really happens; they come back a month later. (Only once in my career, many moons ago, did a chain drop its plans and never return; it was a low-end motel that insisted on high-rise signs for all their locations. They applied for a variance, I recomended denial, they threatened to set up shop in sign-happy El Paso instead, and the BoA said "go right ahead.")

Still, though, the fear of formula businesses is real; if I put up a really nice building in community X, I'll have to do it everywhere now. We're making some progress, folks. :)
 

kms

Cyburbian
Messages
5,847
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30
I have heard of their reasons before. I never really thought about this, but what is the life span of a business like it? Maybe it's easier to sell a plain looking building after the business runs its course. Yes, they are ugly.
 

NHPlanner

Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator
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I hear the same types of things here....but we haven't had any threats to pull out of a project yet. I have heard of other towns asking for "Londonderry" style buildings though. :) :)
 

Chet

Cyburbian Emeritus
Messages
10,624
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34
Stick to your guns

If there's a market, they'll bite. Otherwise, NEXT!
 

Lee Nellis

Cyburbian
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1,371
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29
To fear something, you actually have to think about it. And they don't think about quality. Remember that many of these outfits are not even interested in making money selling a product -- that's the franchisee's problem -- their incentive is to get it in place, collect a tidy sum from the franchisee, and move on.
 

Dan

Dear Leader
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Well, I showed 'em the staff report that recommended denial.

They made the last few concessions.

I changed the report at the last minute, and moved the proposal to the consent agenda. Approved.

:)
 

BKM

Cyburbian
Messages
6,464
Points
29
Your Commercial Appearance Guidelines

Are these commercial appearance guidelines available on line? They sound pretty comprehensive. As I am not very imaginative, I am more than happy to plagiarize, look at other ideas :)

Or: bkmiller@ci.fairfield.ca.us
 

NHPlanner

Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator
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Re: Your Commercial Appearance Guidelines

BKM said:
Are these commercial appearance guidelines available on line? They sound pretty comprehensive. As I am not very imaginative, I am more than happy to plagiarize, look at other ideas :)

Or: bkmiller@ci.fairfield.ca.us
I've posted this link before, but why not again? :)

Our standards are in our site plan regs, section 3.12, available on-line HERE .
 

BKM

Cyburbian
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6,464
Points
29
Thanks, NH Planner.

In defense of the franchisers, they would claim that their marketing experts have designed a "brand image" for their store. Of course, marketing experts to me are as questionable as many of our zoning regs, but. . .
 

Chet

Cyburbian Emeritus
Messages
10,624
Points
34
BKM said:
In defense of the franchisers, they would claim that their marketing experts have designed a "brand image" for their store. Of course, marketing experts to me are as questionable as many of our zoning regs, but. . .
As I've said to our Plan Commission BKM : A pig in a dress is still a pig. I don't care about your corporate image . I care about it's effect on my town.
 

Repo Man

Cyburbian
Messages
2,550
Points
25
Corporate image should never trump community character. I am glad that so many communities flat out denied McDonalds request to paint their brick buildings white with red roofs a few years back. We have a commissioner here who I can always count on to tell applicants that corporate image is not grounds for a sign variance or for a deviation from our standards.

You can always incorporate elements of corporate image into a communities design standard. We have all seen examples of chain restaurants and drug stores that retain their coprorate branding while adhering to strict community design guidelines.
 
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