Franchising Deserves a Stake in Urban Planning
I’ve passed a milestone I’m quietly celebrating on this fine fall day. My first-ever magazine column, The Urbane Franchisor, is going strong after a year and a half in the pages of Franchise Times. Now more than ever, I’m convinced the franchise industry has much to gain by learning about modern trends in urban planning.
This industry, with such diversity and so many massive chains and sophisticated multi-unit franchisees building countless new units from coast to coast, is one of America’s leading boosters of development. As new and resurgent brands plot their futures beyond just the next few months, it’s worth taking a strategic, informed approach to planning their next wave of investments in main streets, downtowns and suburban power centers.
The first Urbane Franchisor column, back in our March 2016 issue, was all about Primrose Schools expanding in growing downtown districts. Since then, we’ve covered the high cost of free parking, QSR brands ditching drive-thru lanes in top-tier cities, luxury urban housing, timeworn smart design in the French Quarter, adaptive reuse hotels in warehouse and brownstone areas, offseason strategies college towns, new brand headquarters in reborn cities, transit investments in fast-growing Denver, the rise of food halls, selecting the right real estate in tourist towns and the importance of catering to pedestrian shoppers—among many others.
For our next issue, Nov/Dec ‘17, I’m diving into urban resilience, which may be the most impactful subject to date, especially in the wake of so many hurricanes striking the U.S. Urban resilience—a new term that refers to the ability of cities to adapt to shocks and disasters ranging from storms to droughts to cyber attacks and mass migration—will surely be a major influencer in urban centers going forward, and the franchise industry needs a seat at this table.
Whether it’s deciding whether to build a new store close to an ocean coast or mitigating floods or fires of the future, it’s a totally new generation in urban planning as cities adapt to increasingly frequent and severe catastrophes, be they man-made, over the internet or a creeping disaster like deferred infrastructure maintenance.
As seemingly every city in North America shows off its best side for Amazon while the e-commerce giant hunts for a second headquarters, it’s important to note some cities are being left out—and will be increasingly ostracized—by failing to make smart investments in the future.
Coastal cities need coastal wetland investment to keep the sea and storms at bay. Rust Belt cities need large-scale solutions to persistent poverty and food deserts, while also scraping together money to demolish entire housing tracts that once bustled with prosperity. Fast-growing southern meccas need to meld low-level or nonexistent zoning laws with effective transit links. And everywhere, businesses need to work with local municipalities to ensure each city’s comprehensive plan includes modern urban planning for the benefit of everyone who will depend on local infrastructure when disasters unfold.
Now more than ever, urban planning needs to be included in boardroom discussions and future growth plans regardless of the industry. The problems of previous generations are eclipsed by the challenges our cities and fellow residents now face in the present tense.
On a vividly related note, please visit this site for many ways to donate to the ongoing catastrophe and recovery in Puerto Rico.