Site selection is a difficult craft learned through years of practice. Civil engineers are not typically well-versed in this area. You may ask, “Why are we talking about this then?” Our answer is that you can guide your civil engineer to be more efficient his/her time, resulting in reducing your timelines and saving you money!
Demographics play an important role in choosing the correct site for you. Not only are demographics important in suitability for the tenant, but also in the design of the development. For example, more affluent customers have shopping tendencies such as a desire for increased landscaping and common areas, wider sidewalks and drive aisles, as well as improved building aesthetics. Your civil engineer can often make reasonable assumptions based upon the surrounding area (aerial photographs and Google Street view), but specific direction is always helpful in expediting the process.
Understanding the Customer
Customer behavior is always important when picking a building site. Ingress and egress can vary dramatically depending on the direction and understanding your customers’ path to the site. Location is crucial and the ease of accessing the property will directly correlate to the number of interested customers. Sometimes it can be as simple as the “A.M.” or “P.M.” side of the road and the general flow of traffic, but often it could be a lateral collector road that connects the site to the ideal customer.
Type of Tenant
Tenants have different desires, just as customers do. Being aware of the tenants’ desires and their needs is paramount when regarding site selection and site layout. For example, a quick serve restaurant needs ample queuing, while pharmacies and cleaners need easy ingress and egress with less queue length. Restaurants’ need for additional parking can be burdensome on a small site, but easy to plan for on larger sites. These different factors play into the site selection process. Informing your civil engineer on the tenant composition helps speed the process to a viable plan.
Destination-oriented tenants tend to be common in suburban development because customers are not typically on-site simply for the purpose of walking around and browsing. Figuring out which tenants are destination-oriented and placing them in a location that generates exposure for tenants who feed off passersby is critical, especially to the long-term health of a development. This works in much the same way that placing milk and other staples at the back of a grocery store generates exposure for other higher margin products.
Visibility vs Leasibility
Building orientation towards the higher traffic areas is crucial when maximizing visibility. There is often a compromise between the most efficient layout (maximizing square footage) and space with optimum exposure to the street. This can mean the difference between an unrealistic proforma that looks good on paper and one with diminished returns that is achievable. Communication with your civil engineer is integral to the success of the development so he/she can provide maximum visibility while laying out enough leasable space to make the project financially viable.
Land Cost vs. Development Cost
A potential site may often appear to be a good value on the front end, but after factoring in development costs, it is more expensive than initially planned. In future blogs, we will discuss the top five keys to identifying these risks on the front end without involving your civil engineer so that you can quickly move on to the viable sites.