Curbing Costs in Connecticut: A Q&A With Geoff Fitzgerald, PE, AICP

13 October, 2020

Geoff Fitzgerald, PE, AICP, Branch Manager of Bohler's Hartford, CT office

Despite market disruption brought on by COVID-19, Connecticut’s commercial real estate market remains strong, fueled by significant redevelopment opportunity and demand for high quality urban housing and suburban properties.

Bohler’s Hartford, CT Branch Manager Geoff Fitzgerald, PE, AICP is an experienced civil engineer and certified land planner with a unique perspective on these opportunities. He offered insights about the challenges Connecticut developers face and how they can move forward to accomplish their development goals.

Prior to COVID-19, Connecticut development activity had strong momentum. What are you currently seeing in the market?

The real estate market continues to be strong here. We’re seeing a lot of activity, particularly in redevelopment. Connecticut’s industrial history as a manufacturing hub has left a legacy of deep-water ports, rail lines, and interstate highways crisscrossing the state. This essential transportation and utility infrastructure, combined with our reputation as a great place to live, work, and play, provides a great deal of opportunity for redeveloping underperforming sites.

Rising construction costs are a big concern for developers across the nation, but particularly in Connecticut. In your experience, how have developers found success?

Yes, building costs in Connecticut are equivalent to nearby major cities like New York City and Boston, without comparable rents. However, development activity in Connecticut continues to move forward, proving there are ways to secure a strong return on investment (ROI). There are things developers can do in the early project phases to better understand risk, develop reliable cost projections, and think outside the box.

Tell us more. How can developers overcome this challenge to make deals happen and move projects forward?

The first thing developers can do to take control of cost projections and develop more accurate budgets is to perform thorough  due diligence, especially environmental and geotechnical investigations. This identifies potential issues early on to evaluate risk, make more informed decisions, and address challenges more efficiently while there is time to act.

Next, I recommend bringing a general contractor (GC) into project conversations early on, especially with a redevelopment. As the one ultimately in the field building your project, a GC has a unique perspective on design, constructability, and sequencing – three important factors affecting cost and schedule. Cluing a GC in early, when you have the time and ability to act on ideas, can help you maximize ROI.

Finally, particularly for mixed-use development, consider your use and tenant mix. I often see ground floor retail space treated solely as a big rent generator. It can be a missed opportunity. Instead of looking at commercial tenants in mixed-use projects as occupancies, view them as project amenities that will create a more desirable destination. Ultimately, this leads to a more successful and profitable development.

Geoff’s growing team recently moved to 65 LaSalle Road in the heart of the traditional main street commercial district of West Hartford Center.

Looking to move your development project forward?

Contact Geoff Today

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