Obvious sites in the right location are difficult to come by, if they exist at all. As a result, developers are being challenged to evaluate sites differently than they have in the past.

When Holman Automotive Group sought to relocate their Audi dealership to Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, they didn’t find the clean, multi-acre site they were hoping for. Instead, they found an undersized site in a wetland-filled floodplain. By adjusting their site selection approach, they saw potential and were able to make the challenging site work.

The next time you find yourself searching for an easy button that isn’t there, consider these three ways to make a less-than-desirable site work – and potentially save time and money along the way.

1. Think unconventionally about lot consolidations and subdivisions

In Holman’s case, an available lot in their preferred location was several acres shy of fitting their ideal 53,800 SF dealership. Rather than dismissing it, they looked at the site’s immediate surroundings to find two available lots and an adjacent hotel with excess parking and unused land. Bingo. Holman’s team acted fast to acquire and consolidate the property.

If you’re struggling to find the right acreage, look at the property immediately adjacent to an available lot, whether developed or not. With the backing of a good broker and a civil engineer who can quickly turn around yield analyses, due diligence, and subdivision services, you may find a creative solution to secure the property you need.

2. Use existing conditions to your advantage

With the land in hand, Holman’s site still faced expensive hurdles. Home to a former manufactured gas plant, the parcel needed to be remediated, and was partially covered with wetlands.

During due diligence, the project team uncovered plans to restore the site, saving Holman the cost of doing it themselves. They further leveraged this by staging construction in coordination with remediation efforts, eliminating the need for certain permits and approvals. And while the site’s existing wetlands seemed like yet another obstacle, the project team was able to use the area for stormwater management, resulting in additional cost savings.

A proactive, innovative project team can identify opportunities to use seemingly undesirable existing conditions to your advantage.

3. Be flexible with your prototype and layout preferences

Unable to fully develop the site due to the wetlands, Holman recognized the need to build upwards. A four-story parking garage located behind a two-story showroom at the front of the site likely wasn’t the layout they first envisioned, yet the vertical design delivered the valuable space Holman needed. As an added bonus, the design maximized the site while minimizing land disturbance, which reduced the stormwater management controls required.

Site constraints might require building or layout modifications, but a creative design can still help you develop in a way that accomplishes your project goals. Be flexible with your expectations to make the site work for you.

Rendering of Holman Auto Group's Audi dealership in PA

Holman Automotive Group’s Audi Dealership in Fort Washington, PA. Rendering: Penney Design Group

Ultimately, with some ingenuity, thoughtful execution, and a flexible approach, Holman transformed a ‘difficult’ site into a developable one. Supported by a driven project team that turned ideas into action, Holman overcame a daunting challenge.

The next time you find yourself questioning where the easy sites have gone, take a cue from Holman’s success and assemble a project team that can help you evaluate sites differently and deliver creative solutions to make them work for you.


When you’re ready to get started, Bohler is here to help.