When posting this project on Popularise, we weren’t sure what we were going to get. We had a hunch we’d get lots of input from the community, but we weren’t sure if it would garner actual interest from potential businesses. Either way, we were hoping to get an idea of what the community wanted, and if a viable operator happened to emerge, even better!
Well, we’ve been overwhelmed with the input from the community. You guys really know what you want! Thank you so much for being involved and caring enough to give your thoughts. We’ve also been amazed at the amount of operators who have expressed interest, it’s a great sign for OKC’s economy and really reflects that #3 Best City to Start a Small Business ranking we received this year.
We learned a lot from our friends at Popularise on how this process has been successful. We wanted to share with you a little more insight to the specifics of the process, and how decision for the future of the Coin Laundry will be made.
How does the Popularise process work?
Popularise is NOT a contest. Popularise is a community engagement platform that can be used as a research and planning tool for gathering ideas, learning about local demand, and finding potential local business partners.
For the Coin Laundry our process has been the following:
Step 1. Get the input: After launching Coin Laundry, our goal was to reach out to as many local businesses, residents and people who enjoy the district (and maybe even ones who would enjoy the district if we had X) to submit ideas for what they would want to build in the Plaza District. The first month we have had the drawing board, we have been pushing our online community to give us their ideas and support the ideas they liked.
Step 2. Analyze the Data: In sorting through the ideas, we tried to identify potential ideas that fit the physical constraints of the building, as well as viable businesses that had the ability to execute their plan. Not all ideas worked. Some popular ideas did not produce any real operators interested in opening a business in the Plaza District. We also wanted to balance the popularity of a single idea vs. the fact that several similar concepts were posted multiple times. Lastly, focusing on what the locals wanted was important, although Popularise is an open platform, we wanted to give weight to those who live, work, eat, & play in the Plaza District* That’s where your zip codes came into play, thank you!
Step 3. Combine Popularity + Financial Viability: Finally, we tried to combine the popularity of an idea with other traditional factors including:
- financial viability
- experience of the operator
- long-term neighborhood potential
How will we make our decision?
In looking at all the information received, we believe there was clear broad-based support for 3 popular ideas—
Popular Concepts Categories:
1. Dining (14)
2. Other (8)
3. Retail (6)
and looking at the support by build-it’s, we have:
Popular Concepts Categories by Build It’s:
1. Dining (155)
2. Coffee/Tea (52)
3. Bar (31)
The “other” concepts did not have a common theme, and the “retail” concepts lacked in support by the broader community.
In looking at the categories by “build its”, restaurant was clearly popular. Considering the zoning of the district does not allow solely bar, we thought by narrowing the concept to “restaurant/bar or restaurant” we’ve pinpointed a general use that we believe will be well received by the community. Additionally, restaurant/bar concepts were the only ideas in which operators actually contacted us with interest.
What happens now?
Through the engagement on Popularise, we’ve had several business operators approach with interest. Some of these the operators have concepts posted, some do not have ideas posted, but their concepts represent ideas that were well received on the site. (Ex: breakfast, lunch, café, etc.)
We are currently in discussions with about five operators. Over the next couple of weeks the property owners will be reviewing business plans and meeting with operators to better understand their financial viability, experience and overall concepts. Ideally, we hope to have a decision and announcement in the coming weeks!
However, the Plaza District is still seeking input in general for what’s next. Continue to submit ideas for the buildings—it will help us with future projects to better understand what the community wants. Thank you so much for your ideas and thoughts, we are looking forward to this next season for the Plaza District!
*We’re very aware that not all of our neighbors are connected to us through our online community. We have efforts planned to gather community input through more traditional methods to establish the needs and wants of our neighbors for future projects. For the Coin Laundry, these methods did not work for the timeline on which this particular project needed to move. From this process, we’ve definitely learned some things that will help us gather input in traditional ways as well. This has been a fantastic learning experience.