Commercial Project Lifecycle: From Concept Plan to Reality

Senior Engineering Manager Randy Cohen, PE joins us as a guest blogger to explain the steps in a commercial project lifecycle.

In my previous blog post, I discussed the importance of preparing quality retail concept plans to use as marketing tools. But what happens next? Typically, a developer will have a target user in mind when directing the vision of the concept plan. If the developer succeeds in getting that user on board with the concept plan, then it’s time to enlist a civil engineering consultant to make the project a reality. Below I outline six steps that occur in a commercial project lifecycle after a retail concept plan has successfully attracted a target user (i.e., commercial business).


CommercialProject_step-11. Prepare, Negotiate, and Execute a Proposal

The civil engineering consultant researches the procedures and requirements of all municipalities that have jurisdiction over the project, estimating the number of hours required to accomplish each task and applying a specific rate table to each. The consultant then prepares the proposal and submits it to the client. After negotiating overall price, the consultant and client reach an agreement and the proposal is executed by both parties.


CommercialProject_step-22. Kick Off the Project

Next, the civil consultant internally assembles a team to work on the project and conducts a kick-off meeting to discuss the scope and fees. Tasks are then assigned, and a schedule of deliverables is discussed.


CommercialProject_step-33. Check the Land Development Code

The project engineer reviews the land development code again to make sure all jurisdictional criteria is clear and all intent of the code can and will be met. Any items that appear out of the agreed-upon scope are identified at this time and immediately brought to the client’s attention.


CommercialProject_step-44. Perform and Draft a Boundary Survey

An accurate boundary survey is crucial in providing the basis for design. This is either performed by an outside surveyor or by the civil consulting firm (if they offer surveying in-house).


CommercialProject_step-55. Prepare a Proper Site Plan

The civil consultant then prepares a site plan—an adaptation of the concept plan, but with greater precision. The line work is offset parallel to the boundary lines, and dimensions are representative of the code intent. The site plan serves as the base for the construction plan set and is often used as a reference in the background of other plan sheets. A site utility plan, site grading plan, and relevant notes, specifications, and construction details typically round out the plan set. Of course, engineering calculations are required for utility sizing, stormwater conveyance, and overall site design.


CommercialProject_step-66. Submit for Permits

Obtaining the required permits can be daunting, as the work involved entails much more than performing calculations, preparing applications, and executing agency submittals. Navigating through the permitting process takes a certain amount of finesse and the capacity to build relationships with the permit reviewers. It also takes patience (on both sides) and the ability to understand that not all projects are equal. Oftentimes, there is a “back and forth” dialogue between permittee and reviewer. In the end, the reviewer generates formal comments, and the civil consultant provides a prepared response.


A typical commercial project can be permitted within 90 to 120 days, but what happens when the project is not typical? Stay tuned to find out in my next blog post.


RandyCohen_1x1Randy Cohen, PE is a Senior Engineering Manager specializing in retail/commercial land development in GAI’s Infrastructure Business Unit. He has more than 20 years of experience in technical design, site permitting, development/entitlement, construction, and general management. For questions or additional information on the commercial project lifecycle, contact Randy at 407.423.8398.

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