The process includes numerous components, including site evaluation and selection, multiple surveys and compilation of geotechnical data, architectural and engineering construction documents, permitting and code reviews, and construction administration. Once corporate decisions have been made regarding the timing of the rollout, the targeted area(s) of the expansion and the number of units for each program segment, the job begins. In order to achieve established benchmarks for success as defined by the developer, a streamlined and well-coordinated effort incorporating varied areas of expertise must be in place to ensure unencumbered success.
The unglamorous and cumbersome site selection process is probably the single most important program component to ensuring that the program succeeds. As a segment of the due diligence period of the real estate contract, this is the time to put the site under the greatest of scrutiny — with well-researched information empowering the investor to make informed choices as to whether or not to move forward with a particular property. In evaluating each potential site, items that should be considered include:
- A survey with the benefit of title.
- A geotechnical report evaluating soil conditions for additional drainage, structural costs and ramifications.
- A Q&A with reviewing governmental agencies to identify development costs, time frames for approvals, and items for consideration in the possible renegotiation of the real estate transaction.
The seller or landlord often orders a standard ALTA or boundary survey, though it is usually prudent to take this task (with the cost credit, of course) from the seller and order the survey directly. This will allow flexibility in obtaining additional survey information, such as topographic data not typically offered by the seller’s survey. This survey must also be completed with the benefit of title work, so that all encumbrances and potential conflicts on the site are identified and dealt with early in the process.
The geotechnical report (or soils report) is also necessary to evaluate conditions on a particular site relevant to additional development costs. This information is imperative for the structural design and impact on the drainage system design. The bottom line is to be aware of any site limitations up front so that they may be factored into the overall development plan with no surprises later.
PERMITTING AGENCY RESEARCH
It is also prudent to inquire with all agencies issuing approvals or permits on your project to gain an understanding of their applicable building codes they’ve adopted — as well as ensuring local ordinances and state statutes are in keeping with the prototype design and conceptual site plan(s). Since there are many nuances to code interpretations or local/state amendments that can arise during the plan review process and cause excessive delays in a project, it is clearly better to identify any major conflicts early. If there are conflicts that cannot be resolved, or the design criteria for the corporate standards cannot be met (such as minimum parking that can be provided on site), the key is to know this up front. Time and money will be spent needlessly when the developer fails to invest in a thorough site investigation that may reveal the property will have excessive costs or that it is totally undevelopable. Skeletal information at this stage only leaves large gaps that can hold many surprises later. Consequently, informed decisions can be made in far less time if in-depth information is obtained and addressed in the site investigation phase.
TIMING OF THE PERMITTING PROCESS
In interviewing all the agencies issuing approvals, the timing of the approval process can be anticipated and incorporated into the overall timing of the rollout segment and benchmarks. In order to meet the established dates, accurate estimations of the approval time are imperative. It is always best to know the truth rather than to live with false hope. Although it is nice to hear that permits will only take four weeks, the adverse impact on the program is tremendous if the developer is faced with significant delays and a permitting process actually takes 12 weeks.
COST OF THE PERMITTING PROCESS
Additionally, agency research is the key to revealing approval and permitting costs that will be incurred early in the process — such as building permit fees; onetime impact fees for roads, fire, police or other local services; review fees; utility connection fees; and/or other surcharges associated with the project. It is important to realize that the costs associated in the site investigation phase pale in comparison to the costs of moving forward with a development program filled with unanticipated costs appearing in the rollout process.
PUTTING PLAN INTO ACTION
Once all of the above information is evaluated and the decision is made to develop the site, the construction documents phase begins. Even though the real estate contract’s due diligence period may have passed, time still remains critical. It is imperative that all disciplines work together, often involving multiple consultants across the nation, to coordinate the necessary components with a keen understanding of the developer’s goals. Team project players must have very positive, established relationships to ensure compliance and obtain consistency of construction documents.
It is extremely valuable to have all the disciplines under one company umbrella in the name of a cost-effective, streamlined and effective program rollout. The necessary disciplines include architectural, structural engineering, building engineering (mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems), civil engineering, landscape architecture, and interior design as needed. Although permitting staff is not part of the design team, it is essential to have them involved throughout the entire design process to coordinate submittal deadlines and keep the program on track.
With the construction documents completed, there are two parallel processes that must take place: the bidding process and the permitting/approval process. Obtaining, receiving, and evaluating bids from contractors is clearly an important part of the process, since this has the largest impact on the development’s budget. Experienced professionals savvy in bid negotiations and contractor selection are most valuable in this phase of development.
DEDICATED PERMITTING TEAM
Receiving approvals from the governing agencies can be a daunting task best left to those who understand the intimate detail of a municipality’s process. Dedicated personnel are often the best and most effective method of keeping the project from becoming stagnant on any reviewer’s desk. Their role further includes the coordination of all the outside agency needs, culminating in ultimately pulling the building permit.
Once the permits have been issued, the construction administration phase begins. This later stage is extremely time-sensitive and requires an experienced professional to troubleshoot so that the program is kept on track to ensure a high-quality product that satisfies developer and customer standards.
BRINGING IT ALL TOGETHER
Clearly the process of rolling out a program is complex especially since time is of the essence when it comes to opening a new store. The coordination of developing multiple sites simultaneously requires that effective and responsive team members are in place working cohesively as one unit. This will result in minimizing delays and surprises to further ensure that corporate goals are met. Each and every project requires an intense level of detail and focused attention.
Consequentially, the brand must make the best possible choices when sourcing a design partner for their multi-unit development program. This can best be achieved by having a seasoned architecture and engineering team in place to identify and resolve inevitable hurdles as they arise. The brand will then be well-positioned to maximize the success of rollouts nationwide.
For additional information on our expertise with Program Rollouts, please contact us at 407.645.5008 or via email at [email protected].