There’s a lot that happens between purchasing a piece of land and a resident being able to walk into their local grocery store. That long road from A to Z is the development process, and we go through it every time we build a retail development.
But, the challenge is never straight forward. Timelines, permitting, site planning, utility hook ups, and leasing commitments can all come at different times and with different degrees of sincerity.
As a result, the process is fluid, and we rely on our development team and project managers to keep the job on track and meet our deadlines.
While our team has become accustomed to changing timelines, shifting tenant needs, and the fluidity of the process, the expectation is not always the same for tenants eager to move into their new space.
However, we firmly believe that this collaborative process, which allows for iteration and flexibility from start to finish, is the best way to create community retail sites that have lasting value for the neighbourhood.
The site plan, created in consultation with an architect, is based on a combination of requirements set by the city, the developer, and market demands. These include:
- Ideal tenant mix – We determine an ideal mix of tenants to provide the most value for the surrounding community.
- Layout – We try to ensure every tenant has a prime location.
- Walkability – We ensure integration with the surrounding community so that pedestrians can easily access and navigate the site.
- Density & site coverage – We try to maximize density to provide the community with the most services possible.
- Sight lines – We work to ensure unobstructed views between businesses to make the site easy to navigate.
- Parking ratios – We comply with city by-laws to ensure adequate parking.
- Zoning – We take city zoning by-laws into account while finding the ideal tenants for the community.
- Access – We work with the city to determine access locations to each of our sites.
But, like much of the development process, these requirements can change over the course of a development’s life cycle.
The City dictates certain requirements, like access, zoning, and parking ratios, which all have the potential to change as surrounding neighbourhoods are developed.
Market demands can also change, creating a shift in the types of building’s being asked for by tenants and the type of tenants that are in-demand for the community.
This fluidity requires flexibility and collaboration, which is why, in 2015, Qualico Commercial made the decision to bring an in-house architect on board to help with the process.
Having an architect that acts as our Director of Design provides us with three important advantages.
With an in-house architect, we’re able to foster direct communication between design, development, and leasing. That means everyone is at the table and all viewpoints are considered.
It also means that our leasing directors can convey the needs of potential tenants directly to the site designer. We can then create tailored site plans for our tenants.
The result is a retail development that’s attuned to the needs of the market and responsive to potential tenants.
2) Faster Turn-Arounds
Responsiveness is a huge advantage of our process. Having an architect on the team allows our leasing directors to walk down the hall for changes to the site plan, not across the city.
We still work with architectural firms from across the city for the elevation designs. These firms are filled with skilled professionals who do incredible work. However, to stay efficient and best serve their clients, a working architect needs to follow process that simply don’t allow for the timeliness we can achieve internally.
By having an architect on the team, we can iterate our site designs and turn around updated layouts in as little as a day, allowing our potential tenants to see how our site can be customized to their needs.
3) Better Communication
While it doesn’t only apply to site planning, having an in-house architect gives us an extra edge when we working with other architectural firms .
Architecture is a unique profession, and having an in-house resource that speaks that language helps us ensure our vision is properly communicated. Bob Ross, our Director of Design, enjoyed a long career as a practicing architect, and can effectively translate Qualico Commercial’s vision to the architects with whom we work.
Beyond the specifics of the process, our goal is simple: we try to create a site that will have lasting value for the community while also creating a space that allows each tenant to provide a remarkable experience to their guests and customers.
Sometimes, this may require us to iterate on our site plan multiple times. Sometimes a dozen. Sometimes up to twenty.
While it would be easier if a site plan didn’t change from the first drawing to the final product, we know that an iterative process is the best path to quality.
By incorporating flexibility into our site plans, we allow for more collaboration between our team and our tenants, which ultimately leads to a better product for the communities we serve.