Retail Concept Plans: More Than Pretty Pictures

Retail is on the rise again in Florida, and civil engineering consultants are once again being called upon to help facilitate transactions. Senior Engineering Manager Randy Cohen, PE joins us as a guest blogger to share his experience at Retail Live in Orlando, FL and provide the basics of creating a retail concept plan.

I recently attended Retail Live Orlando 2016 and was struck by the vast amount of networking activity. This event draws representatives from the entire southeast, including Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and the Carolinas. Almost 100 retailers attended, along with over 40 retail/shopping center developers. Deal making was prevalent—nearly every developer, with a board under an arm or a portfolio stocked full of concept plans, waited in line to talk to retailers.

So What Are Retail Concept Plans?
In a nutshell, concept plans are pretty pictures to help developers sign up retail users for their land development projects. While the creators of these pretty pictures may sometimes go unnoticed, more often than not they are given the opportunity to progress the project beyond the concept phase and take it through entitlements. To this end, creating an accurate, concise, aesthetically pleasing, and constructible concept plan is a very important marketing tool for a civil engineering consultant. The process of creating a proper concept plan can be broken down into four main steps, which I’ve detailed below.

Retail Concept Plans

  1. Gather the Facts
    The first step in developing a concept plan is often a fact finding mission. The concept developer must research the appropriate land development code, ordinances, and procedures. It is imperative to become familiar with the project zoning, proper building setbacks, landscape buffers, parking stall and drive aisle dimensions, and other applicable requirements. Reasonable due diligence is also required to understand surrounding topography, access point connections, and environmentally sensitive indicators.
  2. Get to Know the Retailer
    Once these items have been fleshed out, it is often necessary to make sure to “know the retailer”. Many retailers have specific building footprints, parking requirements, landscape requirements, and overall site layout requirements. In fact, there is typically a design handbook, or land development website, that holds the key to all of this information.
  3. Start Drawing
    As an engineer, I prefer to draw my concepts with CAD software—this is the best way to ensure accurate dimensions, radii, and other pertinent site features. Once the concept has been created, some may add a certain degree of color rendering, or simply superimpose the concept plan on a good quality aerial photograph.
  4. Provide Contact Info
    The last step is to add a company logo and contact information. This final piece will allow a firm to stay at the forefront of a project, even when not involved with every impromptu meeting.

A Marketing Tool for Future Work
Invaluable to developers, a concept plan is an inexpensive marketing tool that will often result in future work. And when done correctly, it will undoubtedly position a retail project for success.

Randy CohenRandy 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 developing retail concept plans, contact Randy at 407.423.8398.


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