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Don't overlook site characteristics that could in crease costs

Finding a desirable site isn't easy. In fact, they're becoming so rare that one architect, when shown a potential site, always asks, "What's wrong with it?" Such skepticism may be healthy, financially speaking. When evaluating "location, location, location," developers and their teams must consider a range of issues to ensure the cost-effectiveness of each site. Is it properly zoned? Is it a protected wetland? Will a facility's proposed "footprint" suit the site?

"When evaluating land costs, consider that a steal may not be," says Glen A. Tipton, ALA, senior vice president of Cochran Stephenson & Donkervoet Architects & Interior Designers in Baltimore.

A higher-priced site without major problems may be worth more than a difficult property costing significantly less, says TiptonTaxes and zoning are important considerations. There are other trade-offs as well. A site in an urban renewal district, for example, may bring higher construction costs than would a sprawling suburban site but may save in impact fees and net additional municipal incentives.

Given the myriad aspects of site selection--from financial and operational considerations to geotechnical, legal, and engineering factors--site evaluation for development of a full-scale senior living project may require a team of 45 persons covering a dozen or more disciplines. As a developer, be sure to keep the following too-often-overlooked basics in mind:

* Improve community relations

"Some clients instruct architects and engineers, 'Bring us back a zoned site,' but we tell providers to invite neighborhood residents to informational, preliminary meetings and send a marketing representative to answer questions," says David W. Minnigan, AIA, IIDA, senior design architect at Nashville's Earl Swensson Associates. It's more cost effective to address key community issues up front; fighting over site restrictions can be a very frustrating, expensive process. In many cases, says Minnigan, such gatherings have become marketing forums and sales opportunities as people discover a project is just what they need for an aunt or parent--not an undesirable "institutional" facility in their community.

* Be up to the codes

Knowing local codes, or hiring those who do, can bring tremendous cost savings. Zoning codes often require a specific maximum number of units per acre, for example. Although assisted living facilities are typically ill-defined in many codes, a residential (instead of care facility) designation may drastically reduce the number of permissible units, thereby requiring a larger site to achieve the facility size originally planned.

Similarly, other jurisdictional controls of setbacks or height limitations may reduce the number of units achievable on a site below the optimum. Inclusion of fire lanes not previously anticipated could also seriously affect building design.

* Use available resources

The right site can create an environment that helps keep residents active and healthy--without the added cost of supplying such services within a senior care project. Consider the advantages of a site that allows long term care residents easy access to nearby grocery stores, a mall, places of worship, a bank, and a community center.

* Consider construction

Many site-related factors could affect the cost of construction. Sloping sites may be appealing, but may also increase building costs by requiring excessive retaining walls or earth movement. The construction business environment is another important variable. Are you looking at New York City or Omaha? Be aware of regional differences in construction costs.
COPYRIGHT 1999 Non Profit Times Publishing Group
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:site inspections
Publication:Contemporary Long Term Care
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 1999
Words:546
Previous Article:By popular demand.
Next Article:Does it pay?
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