The physical location of your commercial real estate venture is nearly as consequential as determining where to build your home – in some cases, even more so. A retailer won’t thrive if their store is too far from established shopping areas, and an office building may have trouble finding tenants if it’s out of the way and hard to commute to. Evaluate your commercial real estate options with these site selection considerations.
1) The Basics
Develop a short list of needs and wants that every potential site can be measured against. These include the size of a lot, building or floor, as well as zoning restrictions, local taxes, proximity to major roads or shipping infrastructure, and existing traffic flow.
Don’t forget to look into incentives at the local, state and federal levels that could influence your decision. For example, the federal Historically Underutilized Business Zones (HUBZone) program gives preferential procurement opportunities to small businesses that contract with the government if they’re willing to set up shop in underutilized areas. On state and local levels, economic development organizations may offer expert assistance, market analysis or even cash incentives.
Include neighbors and nearby amenities as you weigh the relative merits of each site. What other types of businesses would be near yours? Could that affect the success of your business? Obviously, you don’t want to hang your shingle next to an established business that offers the same thing you do. Conversely, a business that offers goods or services that complement yours could be a great neighbor – if you’re opening a gym, for example, you might prioritize sites that are near health food stores or sporting equipment retailers.
3) Visibility and Access
How difficult will the commute be for your future employees? Attracting top talent might lead you to choose a site near a highway or major city street rather than a cheaper one in the middle of nowhere. If you have a community-facing business, such as a retail establishment, restaurant or walk-in clinic, your site has to be equally easy for guests to reach. Consider how much you’ll rely on foot traffic from passersby and how close each site is to adequate parking.
4) Safety and Security
Crime rates only tell part of the story. Put yourself in the shoes of a shopper or employee and examine sites for how safe each one feels, especially after dark. How well lit is the property? How close is the parking area and is it adequately lit too? Does the building you’re looking at employ security personnel? Are the ground floor windows reinforced to resist breakage?
Life safety is an important consideration too. Bring a local code compliance professional (and, if possible, an ADA consultant) to see what updates you may have to make to wiring, fire alarms and sprinklers, restrooms and other parts of the space to comply with code.
Commercial lease negotiations generally devote a fair amount of time to signage considerations, and with good reason. The right sign can help draw people in to visit your business for the first time, while a beat up or generally poor quality sign could give potential customers the wrong impression. If your business will need any kind of signage, make sure you pay attention to that during site selection. What signage locations does the site come with? Will you be charged for additional signage requests? Who will cover your grand opening banners and pull-away signs?