CCIM Feature

Site Selection Methodology Assists College's Campus Relocation

When the Nevada College of Pharmacy's president approached Judi Woodyard, CCIM, SIOR, to find space for a new campus, she knew it would be a demanding process. The college was a startup nonprofit business, which made “it challenging to portray the financial strength necessary to enter into the type of long-term lease the institution required,” she says. Also, the college needed a space it could grow into over the next 10 years, although specific long-term expansion plans were in place only for the next three years. “As we know, developers cannot hold their product vacant for such a period, even in the situation of a must-take graduated lease,” she says.

But thanks to Woodyard's controlled process site search, a method she developed more than 15 years ago, both the college and the Las Vegas Valley benefited from an adaptive reuse of the Green Valley Commerce Center in Henderson, Nev.

Making Transactions Easier

President of Commercial Associates in Las Vegas, Woodyard developed the controlled process site search to provide a higher level of service and confidence to her clients. Through the controlled process, “the user's requirements are set forth and clearly understood between the tenant and consultant, together with an outline of the process's steps and a time line for their completion,” she says. The goal is to minimize client anxiety and ensure none of the necessary steps are overlooked.

Since developing the controlled process, Woodyard has determined that the following steps help streamline site searches:

  • Recognize the issues and validate each with the client, keeping their priorities in mind.

  • Even if a property appears to be the front-runner, be completely objective and research every possibility.

  • Explain the schedule to the client at the very beginning and do not let the process change. This gives clients confidence that you won't overlook anything and allows you to address their concerns without derailing the process.

  • Report each step along the way and always ask the client for approval; don't move on if problems remain.

  • Research and validate your information; don't take anything for granted.

  • Finally, don't be afraid to pursue your creative ideas.

Woodyard's methodology “has evolved into an organized approach to problem solving that works every time,” she says. The Nevada College of Pharmacy project “was a unique opportunity to spread many unique problems into the matrix and find a way to address them all.”

Understanding Site Requirements

Woodyard began the project by determining the college's site requirements. The most important prerequisite was the ability to grow into the space in phases, so potential sites either needed multiple buildings or at least 20 acres of developable land.

Needing to relocate between semesters, the college required 60,000 square feet no later than September 2004, with an additional 40,000 sf one year later, when it plans on converting to a health sciences university. After 2005, further expansion is expected. “It was important to plan for the eventuality of this growth,” Woodyard says.

Other important considerations included price, the space's condition, and location, “although visibility from a major freeway or thoroughfare was not necessary,” she says.

In all, 31 sites fit the criteria, including the Green Valley Commerce Center, a 400,000-square-foot, four-warehouse property. Tenants planned to vacate 300,000 sf of the property within the year, due to the warehouses' obsolescence and poor location for distribution. Located on an infrequently traveled street, the property nonetheless is easy to access and offers exquisite views of the valley. When Woodyard inquired, she discovered the landlord already had considered an aggressive adaptive reuse, “although they had never thought specifically of a university campus,” she says.

Narrowing the Prospects

The controlled process's next step was to meet with each developer and tour all 31 properties, after which Woodyard and the college's president selected the top 10 sites.

Woodyard then evaluated the properties based upon the developers' strengths and willingness to work within the college's guidelines, location, and purchase option availability, among other criteria. She organized more-thorough site tours with the college's executive committee, which whittled the choices down to five, in addition to the college's existing premises.

Woodyard met individually with the six developers, discussing the college's program and growth strategy in great detail and allowing each developer to present its proposal based on a uniform format “so a true comparison could be achieved.” The developers also personally presented their proposals to the executive committee, “giving each member an opportunity to meet the developers and ask questions,” she says. “All of the properties could perform and met our most important criteria, so selection of the best for our needs was based upon more definitive factors,” which included a specific lease term, a purchase option, tenant improvement dollars, the interior architectural team's creativity, area amenities, and the property's available technology.

The Final Choice

Green Valley Commerce Center's developer proposed renovating one of the 100,000-sf warehouses by reconstructing the exterior façade and completely redesigning the interior into a state-of-the-art education facility. The developer's extensive space planning and the project's realistic time line led Woodyard and the executive committee to select it as their first choice.

“The developer had gone way above and beyond in his expenditure of funds to do exterior drawings and space plans,” Woodyard says. “This left us with a significant comfort level of his ability to understand our project and to perform. It also indicated significant desire on his part to have [the college] as a tenant.” Other deciding factors included the project's price, a firm and realistic completion schedule and economic bid, and the adaptive reuse's appealing design and flexibility.

Nevada College of Pharmacy signed a 10-year, $16.8 million lease for the easternmost building on the property. The more than $6 million renovation includes “considerable refitting, re-engineering, and structural concerns,” and interior finishes and tenant improvements began in late June; occupancy is expected for the fall semester. Woodyard is consulting with other educational facilities to create a true campus environment in the remainder of the property.

The project is one of the first adaptive reuses in the Las Vegas Valley. “Since adaptive reuse has not been done in this market, I am most pleased that this facility is the first,” Woodyard says. Through the controlled process, “I feel very confident that we have reviewed each and every opportunity that could possibly work for our use and that we have made the best decision.”

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