Just because a property is not listed for sale or zoned appropriately, don’t be too quick to assume it won’t work for your commercial project. With a bit of ingenuity, research and connections throughout local government and the real estate industry, a good commercial broker should not only be able to identify properties for your project, but should also go the extra mile to help you overcome any zoning and regulatory obstacles standing in your way. In short, your commercial broker should be a creative problem solver.
For instance, when Don Harley, a broker and partner with Coldwell Banker Commercial SunCoast, was approached by Mike Winstead of Evolve Development, LLC to help him locate property for a new apartment complex in Leland, he thought of two adjacent tracts – one was listed for sale and one was not. The eight-acre parcel for sale was zoned Commercial Low Density or CLD, and multi-family is an allowable use. The adjacent seven-acre parcel, however, was neither for sale nor zoned CLD.
“To be a successful commercial broker, you need to be creative and proactive,” said Harley. “I was confident we could put this deal together and make this property work for Evolve. Once we got the seven-acre tract under contract, we worked with Evolve and Brunswick County to get it rezoned to CLD. We also worked closely with the Brunswick County Planning Department to secure density credits to allow for the type and size development needed to make this project economically viable.”
According to Harley, CLD-zoned land has a maximum density, or allowable units, per acre, but the Brunswick County Unified Development Ordinance allows for additional density credits if the developer can produce an “exceptional design” that includes such things as open space, energy efficient buildings and other criteria. Phil Norris, principal of Norris & Tunstall Consulting Engineers of Wilmington, was hired by Evolve Development to develop an “exceptional design” master plan for the complex. Norris worked closely with the county planning staff in the creation of the master plan, and the planning board approved enough density credits to increase the density from 13 units per acre to the developer’s goal of 15 units per acre.
“Brunswick County was a pleasure to work with,” said Norris. “The county has the criteria for density credits clearly spelled out in its Unified Development Ordinance, and this particular property had the physical characteristics that make an exceptional design possible – not all properties do. Throughout the site plan process, we worked closely with planning staff to ensure we were interpreting the guidelines correctly. This project is an excellent example of how brokers, developers and county government can work together to achieve results that are a win/win for the owner and the community.”
Added Mike Winstead, partner of Evolve Development, “Coldwell Banker Commercial SunCoast really went the extra mile to identify the right property for our project and to alert us to the county’s density credit program. Without their expertise and guidance, the outcome could have been dramatically different, but instead, we’re looking forward to celebrating the grand opening of 240 new apartments with the Leland community next spring.”
Entitled Hawthorne at Leland, the Class A apartment complex will include one-, two- and three-bedroom units. Amenities will include a clubhouse and pool, fitness center, business center, outdoor kitchen and grilling area with TV, pet park and landscaped grounds. Located on Blackwell Road in Leland, the complex will include 10 buildings on 15 acres. Construction is scheduled to be complete in Spring 2017.
The Hawthorne at Leland project is an excellent example of the importance of working with a seasoned professional who understands all aspects of commercial real estate and is focused more on the client’s long-term welfare than merely getting them to close a deal. As the commercial real estate industry gets more complex, so does the role of commercial brokerage firms. More often than not, we act as a real estate consulting firm rather than a straight brokerage firm, and that’s how it should be. We are here to inform, analyze, advise and troubleshoot. It’s not just about transactions – it’s about what’s in the best interest of the client and what he or she needs to do to put together a successful development.
Grayson Powell is a Managing Partner at Coldwell Banker Commercial SunCoast. CBCSC leverages the vast experience of highly skilled real estate professionals and developers and specialize in selling, leasing and managing retail, commercial, and investment property. To learn more about CBCSC, visit www.cbcwilmington.com or call (910) 350-1200.
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