Recently I was asked by a small business owner to help him renovate a small portion of his grocery store. It wasn’t as much of a design job as it was a logistics job to help him get a permit to install some kitchen equipment to prepare warmed food for takeout. The total cost of the build out would amount to no more than a few thousand dollars, a seemingly small job, but it wasn’t that easy.
The city of Syracuse has this peculiar oversight process in the neighborhood where this grocery store is located, on Erie Boulevard in East Syracuse. As it turned out, because the project included a change of occupancy use, the planning department had the authority to require street frontage improvements part of the project in order to get permit approval.
Upon learning of the cities requirements, I was reluctant to inform my client that his quick tenant improvement would only go forward if he was willing to put some money into his façade and street frontage. In my experience, many small businesses baulk at extra expense such as this because they don’t’ see the vision as a benefit to their business. So when I went back to my client to inform him that the city is going to impose some greening, parking and sidewalk improvements, he said in plain face and without emotion, “Ok, so what do we do”?
Wow, I thought. This client gets it! He isn’t trying to find a loophole or work his way around the upgrades. He is onboard and understands that adding greenery, controlling parking and traffic and creating a clearly defined sidewalk could only improve his patronage.
In this instance, and in split moment decision making, our client realized the benefit of some frontage, understanding that an aesthetically pleasing façade and entry area could attract more business. After all, his goal is to improve his market in ways that make the community take notice. The result, when completed will be a happy client with his permit to add warmed foods and a pedestrian friendly atmosphere to pick up dinner.