Our client originally approached Developers Research to perform a standard cost analysis on this 6,000-acre, 7,100-unit project. The process exposed major flaws, that ultimately proved this project was not viable in its originally planned configuration. Our grading analysis showed many areas with exceptionally high grading costs per lot. The original plans also crested a ridge line, creating multiple water zones, and requiring sewer pump stations and miles of force mains. On top of the physical limitations, local opposition to such a large project in a decidedly rural area compounded the problems.
Our client was already committed to the property as an investment, so we proposed re-planning the project, envisioning a smaller footprint in order to eliminate some of the major challenges in an attempt to make the project worthwhile.The first plan we developed reduced the graded area by 40%, avoiding the additional water zones and removing the sewer pumping necessity. The resulting 30% reduction in unit count kept the project below multiple offsite improvement thresholds. These adjustments reduced per unit costs by 20%.Further optimizations and refinements were made to the footprint and unit counts ultimately bringing the per unit finished lot costs down a total of 25%.
We were engaged initially to prepare a cost estimate on an approved Tentative Tract Map. Our analysis revealed finished lot costs and a proposed product mix which were no longer compatible with current market conditions.
Developers Research, in partnership with our client and their land planner, civil engineer, and soil engineer, endeavored to re-design the property in order to create a feasible and profitable development project. The tentative tract map, as designed, yielded approximately 30 million cubic yards of grading required. Our refreshed approach reduced this overall quantity by 30%. Also, by adjusting the site grades, we were able to compose a plan that yields more than double the original view lots, increasing potential premium revenue. This new methodology also reduced the project footprint by 20%, helping to present the case to the municipality for approving an amended tentative map. This smaller footprint, along with better conforming to existing topography, reduced landscaping costs significantly due to a reduction of slopes. Additionally, our approach allowed for smaller builder takedown parcels, and more efficient development phasing options. Most crucially, we were able to create a manageable, cost-effective first phase.
As of this writing, the project has been refined by Developers Research and the planning team, with improvement drawings under way and grading scheduled to start in early 2017, making for a worthwhile project that is steadily moving toward realization.