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Site design 📐 Best or alternative designs for national chains

michaelskis

Cyburbian
Messages
21,216
Points
61
"Corporate requires us to build it to look like that."

I think this is a phrase most of us have heard in our careers. Most of us also realize that what they are stating is just not true. A few years ago, a national pizza place came in and said that to me, to which I replied that what they were proposing did not meet our standards. They responded with "If McDonald's came in, would you require them to do that." While it is an older example, I simply went to google maps and showed them this location in Freeport Maine:

McDonalds.jpg


I also explained the story behind it. My advisor in undergrad told us all about it, the legal challenges, and how in the end, McDonalds used this as an example of being a good partner with the community.

But this is not the only example of alternative design. A few years ago, I was told about this auto-repair shop in Davidson NC.
Woodys.jpg


The back side looks like this:
woodys 2.jpg


I know of a couple other communities that now require any uses that have a drive-though or garage door intended for vehicle use to be built to look like a two story building, and those elements (garage doors, drive through windows, menu boards, and such) cannot be located on any building side that faces a public street.

What great examples of great or alternative design do you know of? (Please share photos and/or google street view links). Especially buildings that contain chain restaurants that are either advanced version of their corporate models or substantial departure from their model.

What great examples of regulations do you know of that would increase the quality of design for businesses.
 
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akepps

Member
Messages
23
Points
2
We had a McDonald's in the 1824 Frontier House in Lewiston, New York. It was the best hotel west of Albany when it opened. It was a McDonalds from the late 1970s until 2004. It was recently purchased by a developer who is restoring it to lodging purposes.

Lewiston-NY-2.jpg
 

Hink

OH....IO
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Moderator
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59
In my previous job, I played this game a lot. BW3 and Chipotle both agreed to unique signage, but were not going to stray from their "standard" building design. We had some luck with gas stations making them look more reasonable.

I think design standards that make everything look the same are also a problem. Unique design and the ability of people to know where they are going is important. In communities where you have a clear design aesthetic I get fighting for something more in line with that style, but in most suburbs it just seems pointless. Making a McDonald's look like a brick building only makes sense if other buildings in the area are brick. If they are all EIFS and crap, why would McDonald's be different?

There are corporate standards and the question will always be - how bad do they want to be there? Unless the answer is REALLY BADLY, I feel like you are not going to win the overall war.

With that said, I am extremely interested to see if there are examples of communities winning those battles. Personally, I am more interested in the backstory, to understand how they convinced them to do it.
 

dw914er

Cyburbian
Messages
1,632
Points
22
There are corporate standards and the question will always be - how bad do they want to be there? Unless the answer is REALLY BADLY, I feel like you are not going to win the overall war.

Exactly. There is the general tradeoff of how badly that business wants to be there, and therefore how willing they are to appease the jurisdiction, and how badly the jurisdiction wants them there, and therefore how willing they are to push.

We have done a pretty good job of trying to get context sensitive deviations in a corporate prototypical design, but we try to work within reason. I do remember when we got our In-N-Out - they were willing to work with me to get detailing and some site design elements that would work best, but told me straight up they if I asked for a Westlake Village store, it wasn't going to happen:
 

Dan

Dear Leader
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I'll post more in a bit, but first, a relevant newspaper article. Emphasis mine.




Cities don't have to settle for ugly dollar stores

Beth Kassab
April 24, 2013

The latest suburban scourge is worse than noisy neighbors, poorly-timed streetlights or rush-hour road construction.

Dollar stores are spreading like kudzu across Central Florida. Family Dollar. Dollar General. Dollar Tree.

They're strangling the landscape with ugly, big box frames and in-your-face signs.

At least you can call the cops on noisy neighbors and adjust the timing on streetlights. And construction is temporary. Dollar stores, though, are permanent. Land gets paved. An unattractive building is thrown up. And there, for all time or at least the next 30 years, sits the unimpressive shell of a dollar store.

Some cities are fighting back.

And this is where, for once, we must give credit to the bureaucrats who drone on about setbacks, cupolas and facades.

The recession-era dollar-store boom is evidence of what a strict set of design standards — and public servants who double as shrewd negotiators — can do for a city.

Because the dollar stores are, as their names imply, cheap. They will build the equivalent of an over-sized storage unit on a lot, put a sign out front and call it a retail store — if you let them.

"Their standard is a metal building with nothing else on top of it," said Alison Stettner, development services director for Orange City in Volusia County.

But cities get better results when officials see each building as a piece of the puzzle, each new storefront as the potential to add value rather than continue to uglify commercial districts.

That's why in Orange City a new Dollar General looks more like a quaint country general store than a big box with automatic doors. The Dollar General has dormer windows, a front porch and, near the sidewalk along busy U.S. Highway 17-92, covered benches for pedestrians and a bike rack for cyclists. The developer even agreed to put faux plantation shutters on the back of the building for the sake of the neighbors.

Compare that to a Family Dollar store built last year in the Fern Park area along U.S. 17-92.

Much of unincorporated Seminole County is an architectural wasteland because there aren't any design standards.

The store near Fern Park is metal on all sides except the front, which is partially covered in a stone-like material. So much for a chance to bring a little style and inspire the neighbors along a dated stretch of road desperately in need of some design love.

The same style Family Dollar was built in nearby Casselberry, but at least the city made the developer stucco it on three sides and add some faux window shutters.

In Ocoee, a proposed Dollar General has neighbors so upset they're suing the city. And the design isn't even as distasteful as it could be.

Ocoee has special design requirements that won't allow a bare-bones style. The plan calls for an upgraded design, though still boxy and windowless. (Check out photos of all of these stores at OrlandoSentinel.com/bethkassabblog.)

All of this matters because so many of these stores are being built — Family Dollar is planning 500 nationwide this year, Dollar General expects 635, and Dollar Tree plans 200. They have the potential to keep making a big effect on the scenery, especially in the suburbs.

But while the stores are after a thrifty clientele, they're willing to spend extra money to make their buildings look better — if they don't have a choice. (An estimated $200,000 extra in the case of the Orange City store.)

Which proves an important point: Towns don't have to settle for ugly — developers will do what they have to if there's a buck to be made.
 

michaelskis

Cyburbian
Messages
21,216
Points
61
In my previous job, I played this game a lot. BW3 and Chipotle both agreed to unique signage, but were not going to stray from their "standard" building design. We had some luck with gas stations making them look more reasonable.

I think design standards that make everything look the same are also a problem. Unique design and the ability of people to know where they are going is important. In communities where you have a clear design aesthetic I get fighting for something more in line with that style, but in most suburbs it just seems pointless. Making a McDonald's look like a brick building only makes sense if other buildings in the area are brick. If they are all EIFS and crap, why would McDonald's be different?

There are corporate standards and the question will always be - how bad do they want to be there? Unless the answer is REALLY BADLY, I feel like you are not going to win the overall war.

With that said, I am extremely interested to see if there are examples of communities winning those battles. Personally, I am more interested in the backstory, to understand how they convinced them to do it.
Buffalo Wild Wings tried this in Grand Rapids Michigan some years ago... then backed off and this was the result.

I agree with your comments in terms of design. Even in places that have a 'theme' they still allow for some variability. But I also think that corporations try to make their buildings a component of their marketing platform. Think of the red mansard roof of pizza huts as an example.

I would venture to say that for most larger chain commerical businesses, they will have multiple architectural options that they are considering before the come into a community. The one they first present will be the most cost efficient or is part of a new design agenda that they want to push. But they already ran the numbers and they would not be going into a location if the margins were tight. They already know that it will be profitable otherwise they would not even be entertaining the conversation.
 

Hink

OH....IO
Staff member
Moderator
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16,622
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59
I would venture to say that for most larger chain commerical businesses, they will have multiple architectural options that they are considering before the come into a community. The one they first present will be the most cost efficient or is part of a new design agenda that they want to push. But they already ran the numbers and they would not be going into a location if the margins were tight. They already know that it will be profitable otherwise they would not even be entertaining the conversation.
I think it is becoming more fluid. Businesses are understanding (and communities are regulating) design that is more inline with the community priorities. I think it will become harder and hard to argue that a McDonald's has to look terrible. There are thousands (millions?) served at restaurants that don't look tacky.
 

RandomPlanner

Cyburbian
Messages
1,895
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29
...I would venture to say that for most larger chain commerical businesses, they will have multiple architectural options that they are considering before the come into a community. The one they first present will be the most cost efficient or is part of a new design agenda that they want to push. But they already ran the numbers and they would not be going into a location if the margins were tight. They already know that it will be profitable otherwise they would not even be entertaining the conversation.
Agreed! It wasn't a building design, but years ago, my PB denied a sign variance based on my recommendation for an oversized sign that literally came in with the words "large pylon" stamped on the plans. The company's next application also requested a variance for size and this time, the plans were stamped with "medium pylon". I again recommended denial and argued that there certainly had to be a plan in their arsenal labeled "small pylon" that would fit our standards without the need for a variance. (Sadly, the PB approved the medium so we never saw the corporate plan for the small.)

I have had countless conversations over the years with developers claiming that corporate has strict requirements. In more recent years, I've seen more flexibility from the developers -- even to the point that one developer agreed to adhere to design standards that were not yet adopted!


Here's an example of McDonald's wanting to be on a busy historic street in downtown Savannah. Please walk around the corner on the side street and notice the WALK-UP window! https://www.google.com/maps/@32.0798279,-81.0952365,3a,75y,38.76h,92.11t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1su_YFt6qzM6kFwrqE3HaSJg!2e0!7i13312!8i6656 (Google Maps)
 

Dan

Dear Leader
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19,552
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A few from the files. I'll post more as I find them.

Rite Aid, Mayfield Heights OH

rite_aid_mayfield_heights_0h.jpg


CVS, Woodmere OH

CVS_woodmere_oh.jpg


Walgreens, Independence OH

walgreens_independence_oh_01.JPG


walgreens_independence_oh_02.JPG


walgreens_independence_oh_03.JPG


walgreens_independence_oh_04.JPG


McDondald's, Independence OH. Planners and locals love it, but it's also the subject of a lot of mockery among the urbanatti.

mcdonalds_independence_oh_01.JPG


mcdonalds_independence_oh_02.JPG


mcdonalds_independence_oh_03.JPG


mcdonalds_independence_oh_04.JPG
 

UrbanUnPlanner

Cyburbian
Messages
47
Points
2
A few from the files. I'll post more as I find them.

Rite Aid, Mayfield Heights OH

View attachment 54421

CVS, Woodmere OH

View attachment 54422

Walgreens, Independence OH

View attachment 54426

View attachment 54425

View attachment 54424

View attachment 54423

McDondald's, Independence OH. Planners and locals love it, but it's also the subject of a lot of mockery among the urbanatti.

View attachment 54427

View attachment 54428

View attachment 54429

View attachment 54430
All of these are nicely done as far as buildings go -- I could see the Walgreens using the 2nd floor for a stockroom, and it looks like the McDs might be doing something with its 2nd floor even, but the site plans, sadly, let them down somewhat in being rather suburban still. I could easily see any of the corner-drugstore buildings pictured getting built in a more urban context with the proper site planning, though, and I wouldn't be too bothered by any of them if they popped up on a street corner here. I do have one nitpick with the big portico on the McDs, though: why double the columns at the front corners? It makes the portico look rather McMansion-y in my eyes....
 
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