From: Norm Gauss (
Date: Sun, 25 Jul 2004 16:46:40 -0700 (PDT)
At the time I joined our cohousing project it was in the planning stages. We
had started with the services of a consultant and had bought the land, hired
a building architect, a landscape architect, and a site engineering firm.
We later decided against retaining the consultant and moved forward on our
After joining, I became interested in the development process and read a
book entitled:

Real Estate Development : Principles and Process
by Mike E. Miles, Gayle Berens, Marc A. Weiss, Urban Land Institute

The book painted the picture of a developer as a person or company who first
forms a concept of a development much as an artist might form an idea of a
painting.  If the developer's company is large enough, he might have a
planning staff that starts turning the concept into various proposals
portrayed as pictorial drawings.  Here landscape architects and building
architects may be brought in as part of the planning process. An engineering
firm is  retained to prepare an environmental impact report and to perform
surveys and soil tests and make estimates of costs for foundations and
utility and drainage lines.  Then the developer must persuade government
authorities, primarily planning departments,  to issue building permits.  A
market research study is desirable so that a realistic budget can be
constructed that reflects the marketability of the completed project. The
preliminary budget will guide planners so that the architects ideas are more
likely achievable within the budget.  Once permits are obtained and a
conceptual design is achieved and accepted by the developer, more detailed
design drawings are prepared by the architects. The final step in the
architectural process is to convert the architects building ideas into
construction drawings. This is often performed by an architectural services
firm.  Also, site maps must be completed by the engineering firm giving
specifications for foundations and showing the location of utility  and
drainage lines and the contour of the land.  All these drawings should be
checked for accuracy, usually by the developers staff, to make sure that the
developers wishes have been accurately portrayed on all the drawings.  That
is, the landscape architect's drawings, building architect's drawings, and
site engineering firm's drawings should be coordinated with each other so
that there is no conflict.   All this work must be paid as soon as it is
completed so that it is important that ample financial resources are
available.  After the construction drawings are completed and the project is
ready for the start of construction, a construction loan must be obtained
and a general contractor chosen.  In order to get a construction loan, the
lender must have some assurances that the project is marketable after
completion.  If the working budget is too high, the project may not be
salable.  In such a case, it would be impossible to obtain a construction
loan.  After construction
starts, the developer monitors progress on the project and makes frequent
inspections to ensure that the buildings are going up as planned and to
consult with the general contractor to make sure that the schedule is being
maintained.  The developer keeps track of every step of the construction
process and ensures that no conflict develops between the general contractor
and his subcontractors.  Since time-dependent financial obligations are now
accruing, the longer it takes to complete the project, the more money must
be paid to the creditors (the bank, insurance companies, taxing agencies).
That is why time is of the essence and delays should be minimized.  This is
a major concern of the developer, and skill in smoothing out the
construction phase is important.

   All these phases require skill and experience.  If any group is thinking
of self-developing, a person experienced in development may be able to
perform all the requirements of a professional developer.  However, unless a
person is active in the community in that capacity, it is unlikely that he
will be able to marshal all the elements in a smooth manner such as might be
expected of a development firm.  In the long run, it will probably have many
more headaches, take much more time, and cost more.

Norm Gauss
Oak Creek Commons
Paso Robles, CA

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