Franklin Square, Long Island

Franklin Square, Long Island, is an unincorporated town of 12,000 people which straddles Hempstead Turnpike some 20 miles outside of New York City. The town has no industry. Formerly an agricultural area, the land is now largely taken up with suburban homes.

Local business consists almost exclusively of about 25 stores of all types which line both sides of the main thorough-fare for a distance of approximately four blocks. The retail merchants were all doing exceptionally well during the present war period.

Present prosperity, however, seemed to hinge largely on the fact that gasoline rationing and other wartime controls forced residents to do their shopping locally. Indications were that with the return of peace many would go back to shopping in nearby competitive communities, where larger, more modern stores are located.

The only real solution, and therefore the prime element in the town’s postwar planning, seemed to be to modernize the shopping facilities. But, because these were individually owned by small businessmen with limited capital, and since, to be successful, the plan called for a virtual modernizing of the entire business community, ‘it posed a challenging problem.

To meet the challenge, all the local businessmen were called together in a single meeting. The probabilities of postwar loss in trade were explained to them in simple facts and figures. Then the following daring proposal was made by the community planning committee:

  1. The entire business community would “have its face lifted” by the redesigning of every store front in an early colonial motif.
  2. Next the interior of every store would be modernized with proper layout, counter and sales space, perhaps air conditioning.
  3. The local bank would make such loans as were needed to each businessman over and above what he could carry out of his own resources. All loans were to be at a low rate of interest and amortized over a period of 5 years.
  4. Instead of being done piecemeal, the project would be done as one major undertaking by a group of architects, builders, and contractors.

The concrete results

The local businessmen have subscribed to the plan 100 percent.

A single architectural layout has been made of the pro-posed new “Main Street.” A group of large concerns, both industrial and commercial, have supplied experts to aid in the planning. A number of contracts have been entered into to do the work as soon as materials are available.

Besides these actions bearing directly on the merchants’ collective decision to modernize their business properties, the following additional planning projects have been inaugurated in Franklin Square

  1. An option has been taken on a large area to be made into a shoppers’ parking lot after the war. Bonds have been taken up by the merchants to pay the costs of the land, resurfacing, administration, etc.
  2. A series of commerce and industry forums have been held. at which manufacturers and dis-tributors have been invited to discuss with Franklin Square businessmen their postwar products, services, merchandising plants, etc.
  3. A Project Register has been created in cooperation with the local bank, where both merchants and townspeople can sign up with suppliers or builders for particular postwar undertakings. Special banking accounts have been set up to insure that the necessary funds will be available.
  4. A Buyers’ Advisory Bureau, which anyone can consult for information and advice on postwar construction, equipment, or services, has also been established. The bureau is in regular contact with manufacturers, distributors, govern-ment agencies, and other sources from which such advisory assistance can be obtained.
  5. A Purchase Club has been started. Special savings accounts can be opened at the bank or inlocal stores, which will transfer them to the bank for the depositor-and built up toward the purchasing of specific postwar items. Six hundred such accounts were opened in the first 2 months of operation.
  6. A public works program has been started by the planning committee in cooperation with the proper authorities. It looks forward to the erection of a new post office, an incinerator and refuse disposal plant, a new public park and municipal center, and an additional secondary school.

Not content with continuing to plan in such realistic fashion for the future of their community, the economic structure of which is made up entirely of small commercial businesses, the Franklin Square planners have arranged nothing less than an hour and a half network television broadcast to show what one small town can do.