By Alex Kolodesh, CCIM
In the Fall 2014 edition of the York Commons-Miller Lane Newsletter, I introduced the first of three articles focusing on the best practices for successful development. This quarter, I want to focus on the second practice I believe is essential for long-term stability in a commercial development. This practice involves the commitment to a solid set of aesthetic principles and structural guidelines.
First and foremost, the reason for this commitment is to benefit two important groups: the Butler Township community and our tenants. Development that is aesthetically strong and structurally sound enables our tenants to maintain a sense of uniqueness while keeping Miller Lane a location where quality development prevails and our community thrives. From our first multi-tenant building, still with the original businesses of Cold Stone, Cassanos and Great Clips as tenants, to our most recent addition of the Fazoli’s (along with McAlister’s Deli and Batteries Plus Bulbs as future additions) at the corner of York Commons Boulevard and Miller Lane – we believe we have maintained a particular aesthetic identity throughout the development.
In addition to the multi-tenant centers we have built, we have worked very closely throughout the entire process with the various commercial users that have purchased property and built their own buildings. The critical factor in each case was to maintain and even enhance the overall aesthetic of the development. There are a couple of building designs I would like to refer to as examples. These businesses include Walmart, Olive Garden and Progressive Insurance. All three possess their own unique designs, while contributing to the overall quality of the development.
We knew the community wanted a Walmart and for this reason we wanted to make every reasonable accommodation to bring them here. Our priority was to do whatever we could to make sure Walmart’s building design fit within the overall “look” of the development. We kept in mind that the smallest of details can have a significant impact. For this reason, we needed to be as thoughtful as possible. The Walmart project from start to finish, occurred over a two year period, from the initial negotiations, to the signing of the contract, to the opening of the store.
Before signing a contract, Singer Properties asked Walmart for a submission of the building design along with the hardscape and landscape layouts of the surrounding area. We provided guidelines to Walmart corporate we believed would provide a positive contribution to the community’s character. The Butler Township Walmart sits on a 23 acre parcel and is essentially at the center of the Business District.
Singer Properties worked with Walmart corporate to make sure this particular building maintained a neighborhood feel that made a positive contribution to the community’s character.
The result was the incorporation of masonry cladding on the outside of the store along with a retention pond outlined with black aluminum fencing and well-designed hardscape and landscape. All three additions come together forming a much better look to the area.
The use of brick and EIFS (artificial stucco) vs. split-faced block and siding by Walmart, along with the other material upgrades, significantly increased the overall costs to the construction project. In order for Walmart to agree to such concessions, the overall purchase price for the parcel needed to be greatly reduced. Singer Properties did so because the long term aesthetic standards of the development necessitated it.
Another example in building design is the Olive Garden. There are a variety of styles used for new stores by Olive Garden corporate. We wanted only the best design for Miller Lane. The “Tuscan Farmhouse” design was selected because of its visual appeal. A high grade of building materials was required to include sufficient architectural detail such as lighting sconces, awnings, and architectural pop-outs that break-up expansive flat space and provide visual interest.
Olive Garden’s use of a stone design for its exterior, has a pop-out effect along the interstate and along restaurant row on Miller Lane. This is one example of how important it is to have an attractive facade to draw people not familiar with the area off the interstate to the District.
My final example is Progressive Insurance. The Progressive Insurance building on North Dixie was the result of months of planning. We toured other new Progressive facilities across the region to make sure the design would be the right fit for the development. This again created a two-year process beginning with the initial negotiations, to the signing of the contract and finally ending with Progressive’s opening.
We believe by focusing on this principle of good development, these buildings will be architecturally pleasing and materials will continue to hold up many years from now. This is why we cannot be complacent. We have to maintain a consistency in quality from start to finish.
We believe that the combination of adhering to sound development practices on our part and strong operational competency on the part of the respective businesses will result in continued growth and success for the area.
Businesses are succeeding every day in the District. One particular example I can point to is that just the other day we learned Cold Stone Creamery is among the top ten percent in sales amongst the thousands of other franchised stores across the country.
We are proud that we can point to success stories such as Cold Stone Creamery, along with others in our development, who continue to make the area a true consumer destination.