Finding The Right Property For Your Business (Part I)

When it comes to real estate, we’ve all heard the old adage, ‘location, location, location’. 

As we’ve helped tenants find buildings where their business can thrive, we’ve found this sentiment to be as true for commercial/industrial real estate as it is for residential. 

However, for businesses, the adage should read, ‘location, location, location, location, location, location’. 

That’s six ‘locations’ because, for commercial/industrial real estate, the right location needs to check 6 boxes:

  1. Visibility
  2. Accessibility
  3. Zoning
  4. Use
  5. Infrastructure and Servicing
  6. Developing Bare Land vs. Upgrading Existing

That’s a pretty big list. 

A two-part series to help you find the right location

With so much to talk about, we feel it’s best to break the information into two-parts. In the first article, we’ll cover the first three considerations: 

  • Visibility, Accessibility and Zoning 

In the second article, we’ll finish off the list with: 

  • Use, Infrastructure and Servicing and Developing Bare Land vs. Upgrading Existing

We’ll cover each with in-depth data and advice to help you find the perfect place to set up shop.

Visibility

When we talk about visibility, most business owners understand its importance right away. For some businesses, such as fast food restaurants and brick and mortar storefronts, visibility is one of the main factors driving their search for the right location.

When thinking about visibility, it’s important to consider:

  • Signage
  • Traffic 
  • Where your customers are

While vital for some businesses, for other’s, visibility is near the bottom of the list for location requirements. 

However, even if the only people who come to your business are delivery drivers and employees, poor visibility can still cause problems. If delivery drivers always have a hard time finding your business, it can cause a lot of friction for everyone.

For example:

For a business selling welding supplies, a storefront downtown wouldn’t make sense – even if it was in a high-traffic area with great signage – because the location is not visible to their ideal clients. 

Despite lower traffic volume, a storefront located in an industrial park would make the most sense since it’s closer to ideal customers – and likely more easily accessible for them too.

Which brings us to our next, essential point.

Accessibility

From commercial to industrial, businesses require good access. However, the definition of the word varies by the use of the building.

  • For office and professional businesses, accessibility refers to parking, easy access via main roads and, sometimes, walkability.
  • For retail businesses, customers are the most important aspect of accessibility. This can include parking, ramps and even elevators. Additionally, most retail businesses require accessibility for deliveries too. This can include delivery doors that don’t interfere with customer flow and also loading ramps.
  • For industrial businesses, customer access takes a back seat to delivery access – especially industrial businesses employing large trucks. Delivery access requirements include:
    • Large loading bays
    • Room to maneuver large vehicles. 
      • Depending on the municipality and the zoning, the business may need to prove there is enough room on-site to complete turn arounds and other maneuvers, as roadways are prohibited to use.
    • Ensuring there are no overhead hazards that may impede accessibility for oversized loads between the building and major roadways

Zoning

No matter the business, zoning is an absolute vital consideration.

In short, zoning is a municipal restriction that assigns general categories of business to different areas of a city, town or county to ensure good traffic flow, safety, serviceability and compatibility of different property types.

When searching for a new building for your business, there are two major categories of zoning, with various subcategories, including:

  1. Commercial
    1. Downtown commercial
    2. Highway commercial
    3. Neighbourhood commercial
  2. Industrial
    1. Business industrial (light)
    2. General Industrial
    3. Heavy Industrial

Each different zone comes with different requirements and allows for various types of business uses, which we’ll touch on later.

*In most cases, a zone covers a large area, ensuring all the properties in that area will be similarly zoned.

Zoning Requirements

There are number of different types of zoning requirements, which can include:

  • Setbacks, or how close a building can be built to the property lines
  • Site coverage, or how much of the property can be covered with structures
  • Landscaping 
  • Parking size
  • Minimum lot size
  • Permitted and discretionary uses
  • Barrier-free accessibility features

For example:

A hair salon can operate in all three (downtown, highway and neighbourhood) of the commercial zones. However, depending on the subcategory, the building will look different.

  • Setback – In downtown commercial, there is usually no setback requirement as the buildings are built along the property line and city sidewalk. In a neighbourhood or commercial zoned area, there will likely be a 20 to 25 foot setback
  • Parking – In downtown commercial, there are no parking requirements as there is usually public street parking. In the other commercial zones, a parking lot would be required
  • Barrier-free accessibility – In a downtown zone, the only accessibility requirement will be within the property as the municipality owns and controls the sidewalks. In the other commercial zones, a sidewalk and appropriate ramps will be required to connect the front of the building to the public sidewalks

The Bottom Line

To sum these three points up:

You need to understand the visibility of your new real estate in relation to your clients and anyone else who needs to access it. 

Then, you need to work through all of the accessibility requirements based on your clients, employees and anyone else who might interact with your business (such as a delivery driver).

Finally, you need to make sure you understand what’s required of you in terms of governmental regulations, like zoning, in any space you’re considering.

Refining your search for the perfect location

No matter how you slice it, the search for the perfect location is difficult. However, you’re that much wiser about the first three elements of the six locations.

Next up, we’ll cover:

  • Use
  • Infrastructure
  • Developing Bare Land vs. Upgrading Existing

After that, you’ll be equipped with the valuable information you’ll need to make the right property purchase for you.

For more guidance and help to make the search even easier, reach out to Shift REI today.

–> Click here for Part II of Finding the Right Property for Your Business.