So, you have been looking for that great piece of property for your next, or maybe your first, Master-Planned Community (MPC) to develop. How do you know which one to pull the trigger on? There are many things to consider of course, and of those, the following five elements have continued to be either an opportunity and/or constraint as to if a parcel of land will make a great MPC. A professional land planner can evaluate each of these and interpret the impacts these elements have on your vision.
We have all heard the saying of location, location, location. Not every parcel of land is appropriate for every product type, residential or commercial. The location in most cases will drive the product options and/or absorption velocity. Whether this is your first MPC, or its not your first rodeo and you have a general idea of what product the buyers are looking to get — a market analysis/study will set you on the right track early in the process. Once you have an idea about the retail and/or residential mix that the market will absorb and an anticipated pace, you can start setting the vision in place while looking at the next four elements.
Whether you are in the flat lands of Houston or the Utah mountains — terrain can seriously limit yield possibilities for your land. The second may seem more obvious than the first but all terrain has its limiting factors. It will dictate what lot product sizes can fit on the site. If your goal is to have a primarily entry level and 2nd move-up home community, then your smaller lots require flatter slopes to minimize construction costs. The flatter the terrain, the more dirt you must move to make the drainage and detention work.
- Floodplains and Drainage
Closely linked to terrain is drainage and floodplain characteristics. Does the site have any waterways, even if seasonal, running through it? If so, what an awesome amenity. But this could be not as awesome if the site is so flat that the floodplain extends way across the land. Can you mitigate this? If so, is it a costly levee? Simply pushing dirt around, upstream ponds, or something else? If it’s too costly to construct, or if the regulating government authorities red tape is too much to mitigate… how does this affect layouts and construction costs?
- Environmental Impacts/Issues
Oh, boy this can be a big one, right?! What is lurking on, in or under that land? Are there wetlands, jurisdictional waters, karst features (caves), endangered birds, bugs, etc? Bringing in an environmental scientist early, can provide some initial assessments such as if habitat is expected on any or all of the site. If there are potential waters of the U.S. these will need to be reviewed by the Corp of Engineers and other regulating agencies. These issues could impact start dates, phasing of development, and/or reduce the usable land area reducing yields and connectivity.
Though Houston doesn’t have zoning, it does have what almost every other regulating agency in the country has — and that is a Proposed Thoroughfare Plan. In some jurisdictions these are guidelines, in others, these alignments take an act of council to even shift slightly. Knowing if and how these proposed roads affect a parcel, and what options are available, must be considered. If there are proposed roads through your site, will they divide your community, or can they be designed to provide community identity and connection?
We hope this gets you thinking or planning to succeed on your next project. We will go into further detail on each of these elements in future articles/blogs.