Overcoming a tough property location
Updated: Jul 23, 2020
Is there a bigger obstacle for modern buildings than a tough location? Perhaps not. Design can be changed, amenities swapped out, tech tools refined or re-chosen, and even layouts can be replanned. But if a building is located in a bad spot, there’s really no getting around it, unless the building happens to have wheels.
All that being said, a tough location doesn’t need to be a death sentence for a building.
Making location an even more potentially frustrating part of the real estate equation is the fact that there are simply so many ways to pick the wrong one. A building could be too far from the busy part of town, or it could be close enough, but on the wrong side. The location could be just right, but perhaps access is insufficient - buildings can be too close to busy intersections, served by poorly-maintained or undersized roads, or simply on the wrong side of the street. Depending on the kind of property, there are additional limitations, as well. For instance, restaurants do best when they are nearby offices, other retail, or housing.
All that being said, a tough location doesn’t need to be a death sentence for a building. Sure, if your property is truly in the middle of nowhere or next to a smoke-spewing factory, you might have a bigger issue. On the other hand, if it’s something more moderate, like being a few extra minutes away from the nearest train stop, there are a few options that owners can use to mitigate a less than ideal location.
Make transit easy to understand
Transit is tied integrally to location, which makes it a great area to focus on first. First, and most simply, if your building makes access harder for its tenants, you will need to make all the relevant transit options a lot easier to understand...whether that means Uber or underground. There are a few ways to achieve this goal. Providing maps and transit information is probably the most straightforward, whether that means analog or a digital screen. This can accomplish a few goals at once, as some cities consider transit signage in their zoning decisions.
Additionally, some companies, most notably TransitScreen, are working to offer a modern solution to the transit information challenge. TransitScreen provides a networked digital display that offers realtime information on the transit routes relevant to a building, allowing tenants and guests to see exactly what train or bus is next stopping by.
The other avenue is to directly communicate transit information with your tenants, whether by giving them physical maps and schedules or by actively sharing information, perhaps through a property manager. Adopting a tenant experience platform can also be helpful in this regard, by keeping the property manager free to spend their time on other tasks while also keeping tenants in the loop not only on transit routes but also traffic jams, backed up trains, and other disturbances.
Identify last-mile solutions
In addition to simply sharing information, building owners can help tenants find last-mile transit options, particularly in cases where the building is just a little too far off the bus or train line. In these cases, properties can operate their own shuttles, which offers the maximum flexibility at a comparatively high cost. They can also use apps to help tenants find micromobility solutions, which can be particularly helpful as, unlike shuttle services, micromobility platforms generally operate from numerous corrals (or in the case of Uber and Lyft, anywhere), whereas shuttles require fixed pickup points. One app in Chicago, aptly called “Transit,” shows all the nearby scooters. And Lyft recently added functionality allowing users to see public transit and microtransit options. Landlords can provide transit stipends in the form of credit for apps like Lyft, offering another option for last-mile transportation.
Build something unique
Finally, owners of all types of buildings will need to accept that even if they follow all of the tips here and go above and beyond to account for a tough location, there’s no getting around that being located poorly will always be a big obstacle. With that in mind, these buildings need to bring something truly unique and attractive to the table, in order to justify their less than ideal location for occupants. What does that mean? It’s up to the particular ownership team, and it could be anything. Particularly attractive design that sets the building apart from its better-located competition? An amenities package that is the talk of the town? A rooftop party every Friday night?
It could be any of these things, which means that there will inevitably be something for owners of any building, new or old. Significant problems require creative solutions, and overcoming a tough location is the absolute crystallization of that principle. Providing excellent transit information, options for last-mile access, and a truly unique value proposition of some sort might just be enough to pull it off.
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