Guest Editorial: Advice To Developers – Be Cool, Be Nice

By Recker McDowell —

Lorenzo Perez has some advice for developers and others wanting to bring new and renovated real estate projects.

Be nice and be cool.

That’s not always easy for some developers and business types. But it is what gets support from neighbors and projects approved by cities.

Perez is an architect and principal with Venue Projects. The group is behind adaptive reuse projects in Phoenix such as The Orchard, Central Market and The Newton. He talked about what helps developments get through the approval wringer at a recent forum hosted by Valley Partnership.

Neighbors, whether they be residents or businesses, can worry about the impacts of new developments or new life for old buildings. And that can translate into barriers with city staff and elected officials.

Perez told the real estate group there are two keys to getting projects supported and approved. He said developments need have a cool hook. That can be restaurants or art, cool architectural, sustainability and design features as well as innovative and creative tenants.

That is the ‘be cool’ part.

The days of cookie-cutter development plans are waning even in a pro-growth region such as metro Phoenix.

That also makes good business sense. Employers and their workers want to work in cool spaces and places. That’s part of the appeal of Old Town Scottsdale, downtown Tempe, downtown Phoenix and Gilbert’s Heritage Square as it starts to see more than just restaurants.

Perez said developers and their representatives also need to realize they must be friendly and neighborly to the surrounding area. That means attending or hosting neighborhood, HOA, small business and other community meetings.

A positive vibe is especially important in the age of social media when the wrong response can end up on Facebook or YouTube.

Retail politics still has its advantages. It can help ease neighbors concerns and show the positive motivations of those advocating for new developments, infill and adaptive reuse.

That is the ‘be nice’ part.

Neighbors and cities increasingly have high expectations of how their communities grow. They see successful downtowns, creative developments and where innovative companies and talent congregate.

Developers and designers need offer those audiences something cool and creative — and be nice about it.