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Making the Grade


When developers are assessing a plot of land, there are multiple factors that weigh into their investment decision.

For the light industrial market, specifically, location and mobility are becoming some of the most important. According to Charles Harvey from Don Quick and Associates, he states, ”Location, location, location is always important; however, ever more important in today’s industrial market is mobility, mobility, mobility. With rapidly growing populations in the metro areas, traffic is becoming problematic within the urban core and fluid mobility is critical for occupants of light industrial, manufacturing and distribution facilities. We’re seeing more industrial developments
locating in fringe markets where access to regional mobility is available. Companies with fleets of trucks that rely on constant transportation of goods and services are increasingly embracing toll roads and are more likely to locate their facilities near those less congested highways.”
With these factors in mind and the fact that the construction market is currently very strong, many firms need to move quickly on developments. Sometimes they are needing to consider plots of land they might not have invested in 20 years ago. Ideal locations or inexpensive land can sometimes prove to be expensive to build on because of a variety of factors, including environmental challenges, poor soils, limited access, etc. Partnering early in the process with a knowledgeable general contractor, such as MW Builders, geotechnical experts, and a design team can help developers make educated decisions on these sites.
Ron Reed, P.E., with Reed Engineering Group is able to work with developers
early-on when determining hidden environmental challenges with certain plots of land. For instance, he shares that “Pre-existing land use can impact development and construction costs. Past mining operations on a site can potentially be hidden by surface ‘enhancement’ that has erased evidence of such operations. That can cause soft soil conditions that will need to be addressed for development.” Additionally, Reed’s firm has helped developers identify complex geologic conditions, including soil and rock challenges that can impact construction.
“If it’s too good to be true, it probably is,” Harvey says, “We often source sites that are well located with high visibility and superior access, only to find out that the property has limiting factors that you can’t see from the street. Such limitations may include poor soil conditions, lack of utility capacity, zoning barriers and/or unforeseen neighborhood opposition, just to name a few. It often seems that all the good land is gone.”
In addition to working with environmental and geotechnical experts, such as Reed on determining construction costs prior to purchasing the land, developers also partner with general contractors to garner their expertise up front. “I often lean on general contractors for insight when evaluating a site, specifically regarding their knowledge of the local permitting process, costs of building in the area, availability of the various trades and even soil conditions and their experience with building on less than desirable soils if that is a concern for the site.” Harvey says, “A general contractor, such as MW Builders, who has managed construction projects in numerous markets, varying geographies, and political/municipal environments can really give a developer, investor, and/or real estate consultant an edge when making a calculated risk decision.”
Having a general contractor willing and ready to investigate a site quickly can save a developer time and money. Bret Necessary, P.E., Business Development Lead for MW Builders states, “The due diligence needed to evaluate a site can require a lot of valuable resources from an owner, so we can alleviate that by providing our expertise. For example, we did a quick grading plan for a developer recently and the site alone was good but would have required about $1 million of retaining walls and fill. That developer ended up choosing a better site without having to take the 90-120 days of due diligence typically spent during this process. Our team saved them that time and the costs associated with it.”
In the end, having the right partners up front is key for developers in today’s fast-paced construction environment. Utilizing the expertise of geotechnical, environmental, and general contracting experts can help developers stay ahead of the curve in the light industrial market and beyond.