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Land Development Series: Step 1

November 10, 2023

Economic Feasibility Study and Site Assessment

The journey of commercial land development begins with identifying a parcel of land that broadly fits your location, zoning and space needs. Typically this means a comprehensive feasibility study. During a feasibility study, developers analyze the potential of a piece of land to determine if it aligns with their vision and goals. Factors such as price of the land, cost of development, market demand, access to utilities, topography, and regulatory compliance play a pivotal role in this assessment. 


As a commercial land developer, the process of site assessment is a crucial step in the overall development process. Site assessment involves evaluating various factors to determine the feasibility, potential challenges, and opportunities associated with a piece of land. We highly recommend that you hire a knowledgeable and experience civil engineering firm with good connections to local municipal governemnts to assist you with this process. 


Here’s an overview of the potential steps involved in site assessment:


1. Preliminary Research

Begin by gathering basic information about the site, such as its location, size, and zoning regulations (for more info on navigating municipal zoning regulation, read our article here.) Research the local market conditions, including demand for commercial properties in the area.


2. Environmental Assessment

You may need to conduct a Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) to identify potential environmental hazards or contamination. This involves reviewing historical records, conducting site inspections, and assessing potential risks, and checking your state’s Department of Environmental Protection as well as FEMA and other Federal regulations. A professional civil engineer will be an expert guide in this process.


3. Topographical Survey

Perform a detailed topographical survey to understand the site’s physical features, including elevation, slope, and drainage patterns. This information is crucial for designing the site layout.


4. Geotechnical Investigation

Conduct a geotechnical investigation to assess soil conditions. This involves soil testing to determine load-bearing capacity and suitability for construction, as well as checking for bed rock which can add significant cost to the excavation process. 


5. Utilities Assessment

Identify and assess the availability and capacity of utilities such as water, sewer, electricity, and gas. Evaluate the costs and logistics of connecting to these services. Most of this information is available through the municipality. 


6. Transportation and Accessibility

Evaluate the site’s accessibility and proximity to major transportation routes. Consider the impact on traffic flow and logistics for future tenants or customers.


7. Regulatory Compliance

Review local zoning regulations, land-use restrictions, and building codes to ensure the proposed development complies with legal requirements. Obtain any necessary permits. 


8. Market Analysis

Analyze the local real estate market to understand demand, competition, and potential rental or sales prices for the commercial space.


9. Financial Feasibility

Develop a financial model to assess the economic viability of the project. Consider construction costs, financing, and potential returns on investment.


10. Risk Assessment

Identify and evaluate potential risks associated with the site, such as environmental liabilities, market fluctuations, or unforeseen construction challenges.


11. Community Engagement

Engage with the local community to understand their concerns and gather feedback on the proposed development. Addressing community concerns can be critical for project approval.


12. Final Site Assessment Report

Compile all the gathered information into a comprehensive site assessment report. This report serves as a valuable tool for decision-making, providing a clear picture of the site’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.


By thoroughly assessing the site, you can make informed decisions about whether to proceed with the development, and if so, how to design and implement it effectively. Keep in mind that the site assessment process is dynamic and may require adjustments as new information becomes available.

Looking to begin the process? Our commercial realty team can help! Contact us today.