The Development Process Explained

tcsadmin Land Planning

As land planners, we deal mostly, if not always with clients who are developers. They usually have a piece or pieces of land which they either own or are considering buying and have a vision for how they would like to develop a particular project. These projects can be large or small. We have dealt with all sorts of pieces of property of varying sizes and uses. Our developer clients range from very experienced to ones who are new to the process. For instance, several years ago, we had a client in India who had a property that belonged to his family and he wanted to, on behalf of his family, develop that property as a resort. Neither he, not any members of his family had ever done any sort of development and so he was totally new to the process. As a means of helping him, we put together a rather comprehensive outline which explained the development process and the necessary steps to completing a successful development project. We have used this many times since then to explain to similar clients what steps they would likely encounter along the way to completing a project which reflected their vision.

Every project is different and the steps may vary, but the outline below, is intended to outline the typical process as best we can. The following outline was initially prepared for this particular client who was interested in developing a resort project. However, the process, while varying is quite closely similar to this process.


SITE SELECTION (Client / Land Planner)

We can provide site selection assistance; however that is not really an appropriate or necessary service if your site is pretty well determined. These are some of the criteria we would use to assist a developer in identifying a property that is suitable for development. These criteria may vary depending on the type of project a developer is envisioning.

  1. Close proximity to major population centers and market sources
  2. Close proximity to transportation gateways and networks
  3. Suitable climate for proposed uses.
  4. Unique and scenic setting and environment
  5. Predominance of gently sloping terrain, adequate water supply and minimal natural hazards
  6. Adequate available infrastructure
  7. Suitable existing zoning or the ability to gain government approval for development


  1. Background Information
  2. Detailed Site Topographic Survey (Surveyor)

Site Analysis (Land Planner/Architect)

The initial step in the master plan process is site analysis. We typically spend however much time is required on-site for the purpose of assessing the physical location and setting of the site. We also review transportation, road networks and access. We will look at various opportunities and constraints within the site as they relate to   development. We will meet with whatever local planning or regulatory agencies can provide us with background on current regulations, governmental plans and entitlement processes. We will review any and all studies or plans which have been prepared previously for the project area.

  1. Site Characteristics
  2. Regional Relationship
  3. Access
  4. Government General Plan/Zoning Regulations
  5. Previous Plans/Studies
  6. Development Opportunities
  7. Development Constraints

Development Concept (Land Planner/Architect)

We will begin to put together a number of preliminary development concepts, usually in the form of “bubble diagrams” to look at various development scenarios. We can also generate preliminary unit counts, densities and areas to go along with each alternative scenario. We will normally present these to the client with the goal of trying to get a concurrence on a preferred development approach or scenario. This may be drawn predominantly from one of the schemes we have developed or it may be a combination of several. If we can get a concurrence with the client on the direction to proceed while still on site, we can then begin to refine and detail the preferred concept. We will normally work back and forth with the client to arrive at the final development concept.

1. Development Goals and Objectives

Understanding the client’s goals and objectives with respect to a particular project is a very important first step in the process. We spend as much time as necessary trying to understand what the client’s vision is for a particular project. If necessary, we bring our years of experience to bear on the project and assist the client in refining the project vision.

2. Preliminary Development Program (Client/Land Planner)

We will also work with the client to develop a preliminary development program or brief which tells us what uses, densities, unit counts, etc. the client is expecting within the master plan. If the client does not have a detailed brief going into the project, we can brainstorm with the client to try to flesh out a program that is appropriate to the site.

3. Market Assessment (Market Consultant)

Often times, a client will prepare a market and feasibility study prior to our involvement in a project. If this is the case, we will use that report and the findings in it as a basis for the development brief and the various planning alternatives. If the client wishes to do the market study once we have prepared some preliminary concepts that will work as well. In any case, if there is a Market Consultant in the project team, we will work closely with them to provide input on a development brief or program as well as to test their assumptions on the site.

4. Preferred Development Concept

After preparing several development concept alternatives, we will review them with the client and work to arrive at a preferred development approach or concept which can form the basis for the master plan and can be refined and detailed.

5. Preliminary Project Phasing Plan (Civil Engineer, Land Planner)

Throughout the master planning process, we work closely with the client and their civil engineer to determine project phasing. Phasing is extremely important both in minimizing upfront design and engineering costs as well as predicting and reacting to sales issues.

6. Final Master Plan (Land Planner)

Once the preferred development concept has been approved, we will normally prepare a final master plan. This is, in our view, a flexible document that can change or be revised as needed based upon market or political changes.

  1. Conceptual Infrastructure Plan (Civil Engineer)
    1. Roadway Plan
    2. Sewer
    3. Power
    4. Telecommunications
    5. Grading and Drainage
  2. Preliminary Cost Estimates (Cost Estimator)
  3. Financial Feasibility/Cash Flow Analysis (Client/Consultant)
  4. Government Review and Approval (Client/Local Planner)
  5. Landscape Master Plan (Landscape Architect)

DETAILED DESIGN (For Individual Architectural Projects) (Architect, Civil Engineers, Electrical, Structural Engineers)

Project Design

  1. Project Architectural Design
    1. Consultant Selection
      1. Selection of Project Architect
      2. Selection of Project Interior Designer
      3. Selection of Project Landscape Architect
    2. Project Design
      1. Concept Design
      2. Schematic Design
      3. Design Development
      4. Construction Documentation/Working Drawings
  2. Engineering (Civil Engineer)
    1. Roadway Design
    2. Water System Design
    3. Wastewater System
      1. Sewage Treatment Facilities
      2. Wastewater Transmission System
      3. Wastewater Recycling
    4. Telecommunications System
    5. Grading and Drainage
      1. Site Grading
      2. Cut and Fill Analysis
      3. Drainage System
  3. Final Cost Estimates (Cost Estimator)


  1. Construction Documents Tenders
  2. Construction Contractor Selection
  3. Construction

Services Provided by The Planning Studio

If you have a development project which you are working on and feel The Planning Studio could be of assistance to you, please feel free to contact us so we can discuss with you how we may be of assistance to you.