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Letter: Development is local

Development projects, and all commercial real estate-related
endeavors, are highly local in nature. It would be impossible to make a blanket
statement saying one type of development should always occur before another.

Editor’s note: This letter came in response to a question we
asked about downtown development. For more responses, see page 21.

Development projects, and all commercial real estate-related
endeavors, are highly local in nature. It would be impossible to make a blanket
statement saying one type of development should always occur before another.
Any successful development plan proposed for an existing city atmosphere must
take into account the factors of the individual situation and the current
infrastructure. As a starting point, the most elementary basics such as
parking, access and proximity to utilities need to be evaluated. The existing
surrounding neighborhood atmosphere before development and after a certain
theorized project needs to be evaluated to properly anticipate the effects that
new development would create. To know what element, either the residential or
the commercial component to begin work on in the first phase, the planners
would need to evaluate what the highest and best type of retail and/or
commercial type uses would be and how the residential component fits into that
scenario. This is very simplistic sounding, but in reality, a fully
comprehensive development project intended to be built inside an existing area
such as a city can be the most site specific and challenging of all. Any larger
scale development project will need to evaluate adapting to the city as a whole
because it will not just impact the areas in closest proximity but has the
potential to impact many other factors that must be taken into account on a
very broad scale.

For example, if a project included a “destination use” that
would anticipate attracting people into the area from other parts of the city,
or those from the suburbs who may not otherwise come downtown, as opposed to a
neighborhood commercial services type of mix that would be intended to serve
mainly those people living in close proximity and who could walk instead of
drive to use them would impact the situation in vastly different ways.

The local atmosphere and what is going on in the area or,
transversely, what is not going on at all in terms of other local projects can
impact the desire for both businesses and residents to be located there. It is
important to know if this project is jumping on a bandwagon of revitalization
or if it is designed to be a catalyst for saving a blighted area. It is also
key to know, if possible, what other changes are anticipated in the surrounding
area because these matter greatly to both residents and business owners. It is
also necessary to get a realistic feel for if the project will need to rely
heavily on expensive marketing or if demand exists already in the local market
for either commercial space, residential units, both or neither. What to build
out first can be a “chicken and the egg” type of conundrum that can only be
solved by a fully comprehensive, multi-layered and well-researched concept
plan.  

-Althea C. Ramsay, vice president of real estate, Burle
Business Park

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