Retail Attractions, LLC
Any city that is interested in growing their retail base should take a look at how they handle the development procedure at the entitlement level. Over the last four years of serving cities in several states, one of the areas where there is always room for improvement is in the bureaucratic arm of the planning and community development department’s development and entitlement process. Our firm works with developers from around the country who tell horror stories of arbitrary and capricious treatment at the hands of an inspector or a planner that costs them time and money and causes serious delay to or in the worst case scenario, even the death of a project. Now please don’t think that I am against good planning and high standards of development. That is NOT the case. My job is to get the cities we are fortunate to work in ready to market themselves to sales tax producing retailers and restaurants, and one of the very worst positions a city can find itself in is to have the reputation of not being “development friendly.” What we are looking for is a balanced position where development standards can be held at a high level but there can also be a streamlined and efficient process where developers and investors are treated like customers and not treated like the enemy. Consider the amount of expense and risk a developer has in a new retail project, any city issues or slowdowns cost him time and money. The issues are different from city to city but no matter how perfect the setting is there will be issues. Whether its problems with the real estate, stormwater detention or retention, FEMA issues, topography issues, zoning and annexation disputes, sewer and water line problems, environmental / DEQ issues, limits of no access limitations; the list goes on and on. Local development philosophies do affect development. Cities that are geared and prepared for growth and development have a distinct advantage.
Something we often experience with cities is that they are shocked at the amount of time the retail process takes. We tell city officials who are really serious about retail development that they need to understand, from the very beginning, that the process is usually extremely slow and tedious. Most people really don’t get that point. If your city is not on the national radar currently you may be three years or more from actually seeing new retail and new revenue. If retailers have interest in your market and really want to get there, it still may take eighteen months to two years or more. Again, it takes a long time. On the other hand, once a retailer or restaurant pulls the trigger on a site, they need to get there, get the site through the entitlement process, get the site work done and a building built and get their goods and services to market as soon as possible. It gets confusing if you aren’t familiar with the process. This is the precise reason that cities do not need to wait until next month or next fiscal year or next year’s budget to get in the game.
Check back next week to see what the process looks like.
Rickey Hayes is the principal of Retail Attractions, LLC, a firm dedicated to helping cities and developers successfully find retail sites, close deals and improve the quality of life for our client cities.