Saturday, September 4, 2010

Polluting the Landscape... or not

The IKEA store in Tampa wants to put up a bigger sign.

I'm reminded of a story about Kingwood, Texas, from my days as a resident there.  Herewith...

Kingwood is/was (according to Better Homes & Gardens) 'the best planned community in the world... period'.  That's quite a reputation to live up to, and the boys and girls who 'ran' Kingwood did the best they could.

There was a plot of land on Kingwood Drive set aside for 'convenience/fast food' and Friendswood Development contacted the McDonald's Corporation to see if they were interested.  They were, so Friendswood asked for a scale model/architect's view of the structure to occupy the northwest corner of (if I recall correctly) Kingwood Drive and Chestnut Ridge Road.  A few weeks later the McDonald's crew were back with a scale model with little cars parked in the parking lot and people placed as if they were heading for the nearest BigMac.

"What's this?"  a Friendswood minion asked pointing to a slender shaft sporting a golden "M" rising from the model.

"That's a 150 foot steel shaft so that folks driving by on US-59 will know there's a McDonald's here!"  he was told.

"In Kingwood, nothing protrudes above the (tree) canopy,"  the McDonald's guy was told.

"Oh, but we have to have our logo visible from the highway!"  they protested.  When they were told 'no exceptions', they packed up their stuff.

"Let us know when you change your mind,"  the McDonald's guys told the Friendswood people.

So Friendswood contacted Burger King.  "How about this nice plot at Kingwood and Chestnut Ridge?"

A few weeks later, Burger King showed up with a scale model showing little cars parked in the parking lot and people placed as if they were heading for the nearest Whopper.

"Why is this sign so bright?"  a Friendswood rep asked.

"It's illuminated,"  the BK architect informed him, smiling.

"We don't do 'illuminated signs' in Kingwood,"  he was told.

The BK architect pulled a pair of wire snips from his back pocket, reached under the model, found the wires leading to the illuminated sign, and 'snip'.  "No problem,"  he said.  Two months later, there was a Burger King on that spot.

The first week that BK was in operation, I happened upon the manager while he was screaming into his phone at his regional manager, flecks of foam spewing from the corners of his mouth, demanding they resupply his store for the third time that week because they were out of everything.  Again.

McDonald's eventually got a site in Kingwood up on Northpark Drive, but it was a second choice and they learned their lesson:  Kingwood was a joint venture of EXXON and the King Ranch (which owns 2/10ths of one percent of all the land in Texas);  you just don't try to impose your will on a conglomerate that size.

So...  what's wrong with Tampa?

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