Question 1: A national franchise has identified a building on our Main Street in which they would like to locate a new retail store. They are insisting that they be allowed to modify the facade so that it conforms to their national prototype. We have many historic buildings on our Main Street and are concerned that the proposed facade renovation will have an adverse impact on our Main Street. Do we have to accept the national prototype, or can we ask for an alternative that is more in keeping with our community character?
Schenectady County Historical Society
Many downtowns and various communities buckle to quickly to large franchises that offer new jobs and tax support for a community but often ask for little compromise in appearance, size and parking lot issues. Communities need to realize that many times they actually have more say in the deliberations than they think. Large franchises like Wal-Mart, McDonalds, Gap (to give a relatively varied group) have already invested money in researching potential sites. Because of this rather large investment, they often have already decided your site is the most profitable before they officially approach the zoning board of a community. Look at how much trouble various local communities are having at preventing franchises to come in once they have decided on an area (locally Wal-Mart trying to build in Ballston Spa is the most recent example). Communities can not let themselves be bullied. If they want the business as well as the historic Main street it is possible. Subway restaurants have done an amazing job revitalizing older buildings without destroying the aesthetic cohesion of an area.
Seneca Falls Heritage Area
Of course, you can ask for an alternative. The community’s request carries more weight if maintaining the historic community character is promoted in your community’s comprehensive plan. If your community has adopted preservation legislation with jurisdiction over this type of proposed change, the community can require an alternative.
Tug Hill Commission
Ask for an alternative. Don't be afraid to ask for screening to maintain pedestrian streetscape, facade treatments that match the character of downtown, and side or rear parking (with building line up to the sidewalk) as opposed to parking in front. What you end up with depends on local values and persistence in negotiating. Remember that they have chosen your downtown based on market research telling them that's where they want to be. They may resist, but if they want to be there, they'll generally accommodate local concerns when pressed.
There are two good sources of info. on this topic. The Conservation Fund has a booklet titled, Better Models for Development on the Eastern Shore. It has numerous photos illustrating examples where commercial development (chains, franchises, big box retail) was made more attractive, more profitable, and more compatible with local community identity. The booklet costs $5.50. Order from the Conservation fund at 703-525-6300, www.conservationfund.org.
The National Trust, home of the National Main Street Center, has a publication Better Models for Chain Drugstores. This booklet includes several case studies where communities fought for better design. The Trust has several papers on this topic as well.
Question 2: Our community is interested in starting a Farmer's Market to provide an anchor for our Downtown. Who can we contact for technical assistance in setting up our Farmer's Market? Are there funding sources available to help us get the Farmer's Market started?
Town of Lloyd
Town of Lloyd has a farmers market that is two years old, operated under the auspices of our Events Committee; our events chair is familiar with these issues and can be reached email@example.com
Orange County has a contract farm market manager to work with various municipal farm markets. She has prepared a farm market manager's guidebook. (Will be attached if approved)
Village of Fairport
We have a 25 year old market managed by our Deputy Mayor. You can contact: Fritz May,firstname.lastname@example.org. A team in the Village of Victor started one 5 years and still going strong.
City of Oneonta
There are many organizations to help with the set-up and operation of Farmers' Markets. We have used all of them very successfully. These include:
- Grants through the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets
- Local funding sources such as Village of City (use of public property, purchase of tarps, etc.
- Civic organizations and business sponsorships (music, entertainment, etc.)
- Vender fees (example: $15/day or $200/season)
- Local or regional arts council grants for music, entertainment
Organizations such as the Center for Agricultural Development and Entrepreneurship (CADE) and the Farmers' Market Federation of New York are great resources.
Question 3: Recently, there have been a number of developers that have expressed an interest in converting upper story space to residential apartments in our Downtown. However, our zoning for Downtown requires one off-street parking space for each apartment which is impossible to provide Downtown. We want to encourage living-over-the-store, but do not want to exacerbate the parking shortage Downtown. What can be done?
Schenectady County Historical Society
Saratoga Springs is the best example of dealing with an increasing demand for down town apartments versus reduced parking ability. Their solution was to take an already existing parking area off of Broadway and turn it into a two level parking garage. From experience I can say there is still a parking issue but it does relieve Broadway somewhat. They have the added issue of August tourists. If you are looking to preserve Main Street alone, creating parking behind buildings (again looking at Saratoga Springs where most of their off street parking is on side streets that run parallel to Broadway) has worked well. The main issue is creating added parking while maintaining the aesthetic of a Main Street not always meant for the quantity of vehicle traffic you now experience. A community should look at creating parking areas in not always the most convenient place but a more discrete location. People interested in living in a downtown area are often the ones who would understand the balance between some inconvenience from parking and the "charm" of living downtown.
Town of Lloyd
Lloyd has this same situation. We located a few areas and the owners developed them; the town reserved a portion of the sports field for a town parking lot; and in one instance there was area available behind a building for a few spots for the business owners and/or tenants. In most other instances, the owners did not live on site, and the tenants did not drive cars. We also have parking behind town hall in the village that is available and is used by those who do have cars.
City of Oneonta
One suggestion is an alternative to requiring the providing of parking spaces for tenants. The municipality can require a payment in lieu of each required space; this money to be used in the development of spaces in a more convenient site. Restricting parking close to businesses to short term stays, say one to four hours, and developing long term parking farther away, helps. Also, many short term spaces in the business district may be used as overnight spaces for residents. Enforcement is the key to any parking strategy. <%