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Starbucks in Netwon, CT with Kevin Solli

Kevin Solli Headshot
Episode #: 058
Starbucks in Netwon, CT with Kevin Solli

Guest: Kevin Solli
Topics: Starbucks, Solli Engineering


Chris Ressa 0:01
This is retail retold the story of how that store ended up in your neighborhood. I’m your host, Chris Ressa. And I invite you to join my conversation with some of the retail industry’s biggest influencers. This podcast is brought to you by DLC management.

I’d like to thank one of our sponsors, retail openings and In today’s dynamic retail landscape, tracking openings and closings before they take place has never been more important. Having this intelligence is an undeniable competitive advantage, retail openings and also known as Rock Tracks, future openings and future closings, comprehensive, accurate and reliable. The rock is your crystal ball and the key to making well informed decisions with confidence in today’s evolving retail climate.

Welcome to retail retold everyone today we have Kevin soli. Kevin is the CEO and founder of Solli engineering is a cool story to tell us about a Starbucks drive thru that opened in Newtown, Connecticut. excited to have him on the show. Welcome, Kevin.

Kevin Solli 1:17
Thanks, Chris. Good to be with you. So

Ressa 1:21
Kevin, why don’t you tell us a little bit about you and your company and what you guys are up to

Solli 1:30
door? Thanks. Well, um, so I a civil engineer, I started at a much larger firm for most of my career for about 10 years. And then, about eight years ago, I left there, and sort of my own engineering firm, I had actually left to go work for a developer and I was started out by helping them manage his, you know, permitting projects, and I had an expectation that other consultants are going to do things the way that I did. And I quickly learned that that wasn’t the case. And one of the first deals that I helped him put together was a Walmart in Fairfield County. And as we got through to the design and permitting part, I was kind of hesitant, I didn’t really trust anybody else to actually bring that through the process. So I said, you know, I can do this better myself, and I started solely engineering. Wow. Yeah. So we’re multi-discipline engineering firm. We do site civil surveying, traffic, transportation, engineering, landscape architecture. And we’re kind of bringing projects from, you know, concept planning through, you know, through completion, with a focus on permitting and looking at some challenging sites that other people try to our heads that kind of create some value for people. Very cool.

Ressa 2:41
And who’s the developer you worked with?

Solli 2:44
It was a it was a family developer. Down in a base out in Monroe, Connecticut name was John Kimble. So it was actually working on some some smaller stuff, and you haven’t ever it’s a property that was perfect for a WalMart. We actually got all the way through the permit process, we had an executed lease and everything in a building permit. And then Amazon bought Whole Foods, and the entire retail world changed. And they decided to no longer build any physical stores, at least in that market. So it was a little unfortunate, but it was good. That was that was actually our second application ever, from an engineering standpoint happened to be 165,000 square foot Walmart Supercenter. Awesome. And so

Ressa 3:23
you’re a first engineer we’ve had on the show, we don’t have engineers often. And I think it’s a unique perspective of how a store ended up where it did. What, what’s going on in engineering today as it relates to retail property? And are there any new trends you’re seeing out there? Yeah, well,

Solli 3:43
you know, I’m, I’m a civil engineer, but I like to think we’re a little bit more than just an engineer my background. So I kind of grew up at a big firm that a lot of large scale shopping center, we did a lot of the Lowe’s home improvement store, or their big push throughout the Northeast, and kind of got to see products all the way through. And I also got to see a lot of the, you know, the deal side of those projects, which kind of, I think sets me apart a little bit because we can kind of understand the bigger picture, not just the technical engineering aspect. And I actually tell my guys all the time, my team, it’s like, you know, we’re an engineering firm, but people actually hire us to get permits, and it’s the engineering is almost like a necessary evil to kind of get through that, through that permitting process. So, you know, what we’re seeing from a market standpoint, you know, I’ll say those, those first couple of months after COVID Were definitely very interesting, because it was just a strange time, but what we’re seeing now is a little bit of an uptick again, and, you know, it’s a focus on drive throughs I think real estate like anything, even on the engineering side, it’s all about location. So, so finding those right sites, and kind of serving some of those, you know, I guess a little bit more central retailers. We’re still looking at that planning and growth. You know, like I said, a lot more drive throughs we have Couple of grocery projects that are kind of still moving forward. Um, the, you know, it’s interesting to kind of see what the trends are. But I think it all comes back to location, and really looking kind of for some of those opportunities to kind of expand, or some of those retailers are separate.

Ressa 5:15
Are you seeing anything? You know, you mentioned, it’s an interesting point that you’re an engineering firm, but developers really hired you to get permits, and engineering is a necessary evil, interesting perspective. and a high level, what would you how would you describe the permitting process in municipalities? You know, in markets, you work

Solli 5:38
pre COVID? Well, the biggest change from a permit process standpoint is the advent of online waves, hearings. Um, you know, in the past, you know, we’d have well, and commission Planning and Zoning hearings, things like that, but you actually have to be at all these town halls to to give these presentations. So from a scheduling standpoint, sometimes it’s a little bit challenging of working in multiple towns or cities or states. Now with online, you know, it’s funny, last week, I was actually able to cover a hearing in Massachusetts, and Connecticut in the same night, without leaving my office, because we’re able to do these resume and go to meeting things like that. I’ll say it’s been challenging, because some communities have been a little hesitant to kind of embrace the technology, you know, but I think as people were getting a little more comfortable with it, it’s actually been pretty good. It’s been a pretty good improvement to the process and in person. Are, is the public attending these hearings? Sometimes, and that’s part of the issue was the technical challenges with it, you need a really good kind of moderator to make sure everybody’s muted and let people speak when they you know, when it’s when it’s their turn. Some are, I think it depends on the community, you know, most communities have those people that kind of go to every hearing anyway, you’re still seeing that online, but it kind of all depends. And

Ressa 7:13
is the process moving faster or slower or the same? Now that you’re doing things virtually,

Solli 7:20
you know, it’s, it’s really a community by community, you know, issue, you know, some communities we had, we had, we had a grocery store and permitting in Westchester County, and we didn’t miss a beat, you know, they went right to online went through the process, no real delay or hiccups, we have other products and other communities where they just kind of push pause for three, four months, and then you know, then they finally get to the point where they’re having an online hearing, there’s a really, really huge backlog, because there’s a lot of projects that kind of set, waiting until they kind of got their stuff together to have one of these meetings.

Ressa 7:55
So besides the virtual nature, anything different so far, and were so new to this post COVID world, but post COVID and pre COVID, you know, getting through the municipality to get permits.

Solli 8:11
Um, you know, now, it’s a case by case basis that, you know, it’s, it’s tough, the, like I said, some communities are embracing it, you know, some communities are kind of slow playing things, you know, I have a, I have a zba hearing this evening, actually. But it happens to be, you know, in person, so it’s going to be at a school somewhere, but I have a wetlands hearing tomorrow night, that happens to be remote. So it kind of depends on what we’re doing type of project, some of the larger projects, you know, they want to make sure there’s still an ample opportunity for the public to participate and to speak. And I think I think that’s going to be interesting, because, you know, a lot of a lot of these,

Ressa 8:50
that’s what I was getting to as it relates to the public attending. Yeah, and

Solli 8:54
part of the public hearing process. I think we’re a little bit in new territory, because, you know, all these projects, there’s potential for an appeal, potentially. And this is new, where, you know, a lot of the different states and tried to put out processes for communities to follow to make sure the public still has a chance to participate. But I don’t think anything has been tested in you know, and I think that’s going to be something that may be interesting to follow. But, yeah, definitely something that’s it’s a little bit unique, and it’s still kind of fluid in terms of how that gets, it gets worked out. I

Ressa 9:34
probably should have said this in the beginning. You know, you mentioned get permits, and to some, that might seem simple, and it’s not a building permit. Can you give a little color as to like in commercial real estate development, the types of permits you’re talking about and the approvals you’re getting and the complications around? Land use?

Solli 9:57
Yeah, absolutely. And I you know, I gotta say longtime listeners. So I actually love a lot of stuff you put out there. Thank you. And a lot of the deals you’ve been talking about, you’re talking about complexity with putting a real estate deal together where you have landlord issue tenant issues, you know, lease, lease exclusion, stuff like that. On like the permitting side, so we’re, we kind of all those other challenges, we kind of make that happen from like an entitlement standard. So, so when someone’s looking to do a commercial development, they say, Okay, I want to put this store here, we’re the ones who kind of take that figured out how that’s going to fit on the property, how that’s going to, you know, comply with the zoning regulations and things like that. And there’s a whole long step that we have to bring projects. So, you know, if there’s wetlands on the property or other natural resources, there’s usually a conservation commission or wetlands commission that we have to go deal with. Because we’re within so many feet of a natural resource, we have to go through a planning and zoning process where we have to demonstrate that we comply with the local regulations, we have to deal with, you know, D O T’s, looking at traffic impacts, you know, do we have a, an impact that we need to add a turn lane here or there or modify a signal or put in a new signal, things like that, and kind of, you know, every site is going to have its own set of complexities. Some projects are easy and straightforward. We do a lot of our work in the Northeast, where that’s not necessarily the case. You know, where things could take two, three years, I think, I think you guys talked about a project in Hamden, Connecticut, that took almost five years to get through. You know, that’s, that’s not uncommon. But you know, part of our job is to try to, we understand that that time kills deals and speed is critically important. So one of things that we tried to do is bring projects through as quickly as possible and a lot of that needs, you know, that comes down to like project planning, you know, when we when we start something, looking at, okay, what are our what’s our path here? What are our hurdles? And how do we address those along the way to make it as streamlined as possible? Awesome,

Ressa 12:00
that a great, great caller? Well, I think that’s a good jumping off point, especially what you said about post COVID. To talk about Starbucks in Newtown, Connecticut, why don’t you give us some color around how that store came together?

Solli 12:21
Sure. So um, anyone driving up 84, through Connecticut exit 10, which is the Sandy Hook exit, right in New Town, you get right off that exit now, and there’s a Starbucks part of a 14,000 square foot strip center with a Starbucks as an end cap. You know, before we started, that project is the town of New Town that didn’t allow drive throughs for restaurants at all. And it was it was somewhat of a character thing. You know, they didn’t they didn’t want that coming into town. But they had started a process where they started to let banks have drive thru, and then they let a pharmacy have a drive thru. And the writing was somewhat on the wall. But the community was still reluctant to embrace that. And, you know, it’s so happened, there’s a diner across the street from this piece of property, and a local developer was having breakfast with a local broker, and said, We should put something over there. And he said, Well, you know what, we’re going to try to figure this out. And she called Kevin solely. So I happen to get the call. And we met, and we talked about it. And it was a really constrained site, because it was right up against the highway, there was a stream that ran through the property. It had some environmental, you know, issues that had to deal with, and there was a lot of wetlands property. But the Department of Transportation was working on a project where they were going to be re aligning a road that was next to the property, which was actually going to increase the area of the lot. And it seemed like a good opportunity. So the developer first went and talked to the town and they said, it’s going to be a cold day in hell before we let you have drive throughs in town, but sure, why don’t you Why don’t you take a shot at so we actually came up with a concept of creating an overlay design district. And we wrote it in such a way that it really gave the commission that control to manage how those drive throughs will be implemented, and was really almost a stepping stone saying, Listen, you have this you have this asset of this highway going through your town you have these offerings, how do you capitalize on that and offer something else into the community? And it all kind of came back to the narrative into the story that we were telling because when you think about it, I have a I have a three young kids and when my wife’s you know driving around with kids in the car, it’s it. It’s she’s hard pressed to go, you know, park and then grab all three kids to go inside and get a coffee but it’s a lot more convenient for her to just go through the drive thru. So So we kind of came up with this red came up with this oral liaison. And there was a long process we submitted and I knew that it was going to take a while to kind of convince the commission that this was the right approach for them to look at this and to look at this as an additional use in town. So it took about four months to actually get through that permit process. But we got them to approve this overlay zone and apply to specific area, it was focused around this particular off ramp off of 84. And they approved it, which was great. And

Ressa 15:16
so let’s unpack this a little bit. I think the, you know, the average person out there doesn’t know that some municipalities have moratoriums, or just don’t allow drive throughs. Your opinion, you mentioned character, what is the real reason that these groups don’t want why your drive thru is not allowed?

Solli 15:40
You know, um, part of it has to do with traffic. That’s one of the concerns. Part of it has to do with you know, a lot of the stuff that we heard was, oh, well, people are going to come off the highway, and then they’re just going to throw their trash. And it’s like, you know, that’s some of that’s fear. Because of the unknown, maybe some communities just haven’t had them before. And they don’t they think it’s going to potentially impact how people look at the town or what is going on with the aesthetics. But in reality, a lot of the users now, when you look at a lot of different models that are actually converting the drive thru, especially with COVID, you know, that’s, that’s it, it’s almost more of a necessity. I mean, you look at Panera and Chipotle, and Shake Shack, and all these other users that are actually looking to add that drive thru component because it really is a service when we’re dealing with this pandemic. So, you know, we were a little bit on a, you know, we were before the COVID stuff, but from a from an argument standpoint, from a story standpoint, I mean, I think that just the current situation of renters helps with with this, in terms of trying to approach a community to say, Hey, listen, I know your zoning regulations don’t allow this right now. But there’s a number of reasons why you should consider it. What do you think

Ressa 16:51
the top reason that they they bought into the story? What was the top reason?

Solli 16:58
Um, you know, I think part of it was the economic investment, you know, that that could be one of them. And, you know, this so happened, it just so happened, that we had two pieces of property that were undeveloped, they weren’t contributing to the tax base at all, one of them was actually taken over by the town, because they, you know, from a tax lien standpoint, so, so we had a chance to get investment in the community, and really kind of enhance an area of the town and really improve it. Um, so I think that was part of it. And I think it was, it was a little bit of, you know, a lot of the reluctance and the resistance, maybe could potentially be generational. Right. You know, I mean, when you have people living in a community for as long as they do, they don’t necessarily want to, you know, see change. But when you get some, some, a little bit more forward thinking, you know, thinking about how to how to, you know, be responsive to market demands, and things like that, it certainly helps make the argument. Now,

Ressa 18:01
living in a post COVID world, and all you read about is retail and restaurants moving to drive thru locations. Do you think the, you’re going to start seeing zoning changes preemptively, before projects come to life where some municipalities are going to start to say, we need to attract these businesses and therefore, we need to change? And obviously it’s not every municipality that has drive thru. moratoriums are doesn’t allow them, you know, most do allow them, but there are some that don’t, do you think they’ll start to be preemptive change to allow drive throughs to come through?

Solli 18:47
You know, we do we do work in a lot of communities, and, you know, a number of states, we kind of serve like that whole northeast market. So we’re in New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts. Sure. Um, I don’t necessarily, unfortunately, I don’t think a lot of communities have the forethought or necessarily like the right staffing in place to be pre emptive. But I definitely think a lot of communities are going to be much more receptive. You know, but I think it may be something that still takes an applicant or a developer or an interested party to kind of come in and say, Hey, I think we got an opportunity here. Um, you know, or we have a real need, you know, right. You know, we we’ve had a number of meetings with, with landlords and developers like yourself who say, Okay, I’ve got this, you know, sit down restaurant that has been closed and stop paying rent. How do we, how do we modify this building to how do we retrofit it to accommodate a driver? You know, in most instances, it’s straightforward because the zoning is in place, but when you have communities that don’t allow it, it’s okay, how do we, how do we approach this and how do we come up with the right narrative to convince them that they should be changing their regs the regulation Just to allow

Ressa 20:04
you mentioned in the story, you created this overlay zone. Can you explain everyone what that is?

Solli 20:12
Sure. So it’s a an overlay zone as a planning tool that that zoning, you know, municipalities can, can incorporate into their regs, which basically kind of sets aside either a geographic area to have additional uses that aren’t allowed in the in the underlying zone. So from a big picture zoning standpoint, communities assigned zones, the all the properties in their town, they have commercial zones and residential zones and industrial zones, and then they allow what uses are permitted in each of those zones. communities will create an opportunity for an overlay zone, which is basically saying, Okay, in this part of town, you can consider other uses, you could add, you know, mixed use, you could add residential with a commercial development, or you could do drive throughs in a certain use or something like that. And they could be for, you know, environmental reasons, or they can be for economic development and incentive reasons. So, so we kind of took that approach, because, one, the community actually had overlay zones in other parts of town. So it was, so it wasn’t a new concept to them. So something they could understand. And to we wanted to make sure it was it was it was restrictive enough, so that it would work for what we were looking to do. But it wasn’t necessarily going to be abused too much as a lot of communities. You know, when you’re, when you’re talking to any community about changing their regulations, there’s always their initial response is defensive, because most communities think their regs are pretty great. To start with, right? Yeah. So when you’re, when you’re coming up with with a narrative, it’s all about how you how you, you know, how you tell that story, it’s all about the narrative, trying to convince, you know, some communities to go out and take some, take some change, make some changes.

Ressa 22:00
So there was already overlay zones in the, in the community, this wasn’t an overlay zone. So you created the what the overlay zone would be and present that to them.

Solli 22:12
Right. Yeah. So we so it was a it started with a regulation. And then we proposed a new section of the regulations that establish this new design district, and then, you know, assigned that geographic area and put in additional requirements within those regulations, that anybody who would come in from an application standpoint would have to follow. So so that was a lot of it, too. And we happen to have great staff in town that we were working with, who was who they were forward thinking, and they did work with us to kind of come up with that right strategy. And we had a commission now. And what were the key

Ressa 22:47
pieces to the overlay zone? What were you getting released that wasn’t in the typical zoning, and what were you still restricted by what what were the things that they were very focused on making sure that you still stuck to?

Solli 23:02
Well, we we, so we had a specific user in mind. So we could actually be a little bit more restrictive than you may want. But so since we were looking at relocating to Starbucks, or Starbucks in town, and didn’t have a drive thru, so we were looking to really accommodate this for that specific use. So we were actually able to put in a number of other restrictions, it had to be an end cap. So it wasn’t a standalone building, because there was concerns about some of the other, you know, standalone fast food chains that they may not want in the community. So we were say, Okay, well, we will say it was limited to, you know, coffee base drive thru, it was it had to be an end cap on a larger strip center, which is going to which is going to knock out some, you know, standalone QSR. But so those are some things that we built into it. So again, it helped us achieve our goal, but it didn’t necessarily open up Pandora’s box that could potentially be abused by, you know, other developers, you know, address it. And I think it was, it was a good first step, because I’ll tell you this, once they open, you know, their their sales increase, precipitously, they added additional, you know, they had an employee, so they actually increased jobs. And it’s actually a really successful center now. They were it was a great anchor to start that project off for the developer. And now it’s getting to it’s a great addition to the community, and everyone’s really happy. Awesome.

Ressa 24:26
And so, that was the, the use approvals and the zoning. The second piece is you had a, you know, challenging piece of land here. You had mentioned that you had a Brook running through the middle of the property. We did so you were building over a river.

Solli 24:44
Well, so So the first step was, okay, we want to put a drive thru. How do we get that the first step to that would be to actually change the regs to allow us to even make the application for the proposed structure. We then had to contend with a piece of Prop Pretty bad had it had it had a brook that ran through the property and and had about 18,000 square feet of wetlands that we had to impact as part of the development of this piece. So for your listeners out there, most communities and wetland Commission’s or Conservation Commission’s can approve wetland impact up to a certain threshold. So if you’re under 5000 square feet, it can be approved local, once you exceed a certain amount of of wetland impact, you then have to go above and beyond and get approvals from maybe the local Deep State DEP or even the Army Corps of Engineers from a wetland stamp. So after we got the use approved, we then had to go through the permit process to get approval for the stream diversion to relocate about 500 feet of a Brook and get approval from the Detroit DEP and the Army Corps of Engineers to approve the direct wetland impact of 80,000 square feet. Well, thankfully, our site was a little quirky from a geometry standpoint. So we actually had a room to provide a lot of wetland mitigation and upland enhancement, and I’ll tell you the actual, the quality of the brook itself, and the wetlands associated with it. They were really low quality. So this was an area that you know, was part of the brook was actually created as part of when he built interstate 84. They kind of put in a drainage, drainage ditch or drainage swale. But it connected into another book, which kind of was was was on our property. So we had to go, we have to go bring that through that process. And when we first sat down with the Army Corps of Engineers, they said, well, we don’t typically approve, you know, wetland impacts of nearly half an acre, just to build retail stores. And we said, well, let’s, let’s come back to the narrative is all about the story. And we have to kind of come up with that story, we’re able to figure out how the brook you know, took its shape, why it was there, how long was there, you know, we had a piece of property where there were some environmental issues, and that in the book itself, it had a kind of an awkward configuration to the country or region and a potential for, you know, longer term impacts. And we were kind of able to come up with that better story of Listen, what we can do, we can create debt we’re looking to, to pose these impacts, but they’re more temporary, because what we build in its place, and when we can restore from a wetland enhancing standpoint, you know, can really create a much more vibrant habitat. And I’ll tell you now, it’s actually something it looks fantastic. And you know, if you ever if anyone your listeners ever stopped at the Starbucks off, exit 10 on a for take a look down the wall behind the back. And you know, we had a great area, were able to create a really nice environment, which really was a stark improvement from what was there before? So. So

Ressa 27:55
your plan was to divert the brook in a different direction, fill that in and build over the top of where you filled in, is that right? Right? Yes. And did the

municipality you know, they’re typically not environmental or wetlands experts? Did they have any initial objections to that plan?

Solli 28:19
There were definitely concerns, right, because another thing is, a lot of these communities aren’t necessarily used to getting applications like this, that propose that kind of disturbance. Because most you know, most, you know, developers or property owners or things like that, they’re not necessarily going to think that’s even a possibility. You know, when you first look at a property with wetlands on it, you don’t say, well, let’s just fill it all and build what we want because most communities say no to that. So, you know, we were able to kind of come up with a really good plan we had we had really good really good partners on it from like a wetland standpoint, soil scientist standpoint, and, you know, we were, we were really able to kind of come up with a creative way to address their concerns. And again, you know, whenever we’re looking at a project like this, that’s, that’s complex, and, you know, we were really looking for them to, to approve something that’s not unique, that’s, that’s unique and not your normal application. We have to make sure we’re coming up with a really good plan and we’re really kind of looking through all these issues and making everyone feel comfortable that what we’re doing is really better. And it’s gonna be a good you know, positive addition to the community from like, natural resources standpoint, but also from an economics is you know, at the end of the day a lot of these Commission’s are still there, they’re regulating, you know, whether it’s wetlands or conservation or even just planning and zoning, you know, they’re regulating to make sure that the town’s getting develop the right way, but they’re also trying to create good environments and, you know, good positive contributors to the commercial tax base. So Pretty cool stuff.

Ressa 30:02
A lot of what I’m hearing, one of the things that goes off in my head is dollar signs, dollar signs, dollar signs. I know when you, you know, stormwater retention and you know, underground detention ponds, and all those things are not cheap. And how about moving a Brook and filling that in? How does that get to a place where it makes it financially viable to do? How did you guys wrap your heads around the costs of doing this?

Solli 30:32
Well, you know, I think we had, you know, one of the, it’s somewhat, it’s opportunistic, right. So the parcel along the frontage, and, you know, was basically bought from a tax lien, because on its face, there really wasn’t much you could do there. It wasn’t deep enough to accommodate your normal retail or anything like that. So, you know, it was in the congested part of town, that that needed improvement. And that was actually another contributing factor, kind of make this property a perfect storm was that God was in the process of actually doing larger infrastructure improvements across the property’s frontage and adjust and you know, realigning a road that was adjacent to this property. So, so the DLT was kind of addressing some of the infrastructure deficiencies from a traffic standpoint. So they were improving how traffic was going to flow through the area. They were moving a road where it’s going to give us a little bit more land area. The only other the only other consideration was the fact that this this wetland in this Brook was really impinging on the developable area. Of course, yeah. So so the fact that we were able to kind of come up with a creative way to address this, we all of a sudden had, you know, three acres that could accommodate a much bigger, more robust development. So to your point, there’s still construction costs and hard costs associated with you know, and I think that’s something that we were from a design standpoint, from an engineering side, if we’re, that doesn’t, we have to make sure we’re aware of and cognizant of, and kind of taking into consideration to our design, because, um, you know, every tree costs money. So like, you know, sometimes sometimes we have to make sure that what we’re designing isn’t going to break the bank, because then you’re right, because you don’t have a product that’s viable. And interesting. So we were, we were fortunate that we were able to kind of put this together, we were getting, you know, right away from the town, because of where this other road was getting relocated, we’re able to just stream location, and you know, stormwater standpoint, were able to do all above ground attention, just because we had a an awkwardly shaped lobby kind of put the stormwater in the back, you know, so we’re fortunate to be able to make it work. Got it?

Ressa 32:45
And how long of a process from that meeting, where they called Kevin solely to when the store opened? How long of a process what how long of a timeline was that?

Solli 32:56
It was about four years. Wow. So it was I think we started, we started working on a project in 2014, it opened a year and a half ago, or so. The biggest,

Ressa 33:11
the biggest time piece, and that was what what took the longest was at the approvals and getting the permits.

Solli 33:18
You know, it was also the approvals and the permits, but the construction took some time. And we were also a little bit fortunate, because at the time, Starbucks had some term on their lease left and their current location. So we were able to almost kind of adjust the schedule, so that the D O T project was going to finish at around the same time as our site work as when Starbucks could relocate. So it really was a perfect storm of creating, you know, creating an opportunity for them to get to a better location at the drive thru, which is really going to be a benefit to not only them, but to the community. And you know, it really, it kind of all came together. And it’s a great looking store, you know, and we got plenty of queue. So there’s no traffic issues.

Ressa 34:00
And that’s funny. And as of, you know, you were working for the developer, but did you have to communicate with Starbucks along the way,

Solli 34:12
we did, actually quite a bit. And, you know, we’re, we do quite a bit of work in the retail industry, it’s been kind of my focus for most of my career. So we happen to know the Starbucks broker quite very well. And we worked with them throughout the whole process from a design standpoint, you know, as you know, all these retailers have particular requirements and specifications that we have to make sure it gets worked into every site design and, you know, incorporating all their requirements, and we’ve done a couple Starbucks at this point.

Ressa 34:42
Anything in particular, I know, stacking of cars is always a big one, especially on tight sites, anything in particular, that, you know, based on the Starbucks requirement that added some complexity to the project.

Solli 34:58
You know, One thing in particular was the dumpster location, the dumpster

Ressa 35:03
location. And it’s and you know,

Solli 35:07
as engineers, we’re trying to design something that works operationally, right. So something as simple as where the dumpster pad goes, it’s got to be in a place where the trash or the garbage truck can come in and pull into it, and then pick it up and dump it back. seems straightforward. We’re dealing with a really tight site. And you know where that could go. You know, Starbucks has requirements that can’t be within so many feet of the pickup window. So that was something that we actually had to kind of work through. But but they’re, you know, most retailer, you know, all retailers have their standard requirements. Some are more sticklers than others, as I’m sure you know, you know, Starbucks, as a as a particular example, you know, they have specific requirements, how many car stack they need, from the pickup window, how many car stacking they need from the pre menu board in the menu board. So it’s like working through that was something that

Ressa 35:59
I think in the future stacking is going to be a real challenge for developers, tenants, and municipalities. Because if more businesses going through the drive thru, there’s going to be interesting stacking requirements. And for those who don’t know, the stacking requirement is, is the amount of cars in the in the drive thru line at any one time is really what we’re talking about. Fascinating, that’s a great complex, you know, complex piece that people wouldn’t guess, which is the dumpster. And we deal with that all the time, actually. So I’m so happy you brought that up the dumpster location, locate and it’s not just the dumpster location, it’s locations of things like that, when you’re putting this all together, especially on a tight site. It it is it is challenging, because then you you know, if it’s multi tenanted you come into well, you know, one tenant doesn’t want it by their pickup window. But then if you move it far enough away from that you’re infringing on where the other tenant is. They also want it in a place that is, you know, easy for their employees to get to and be able to walk out the back and just throw things away. So it’s definitely for those out there all those dumpsters that you see in the backs of shopping centers, those were specifically planned on purpose and not random. So thank you for bringing that up.

Solli 37:27
And it’s funny too, because because when you have multi tenant buildings, as you know, some some tenants don’t want to co mingle their trash. Yeah, we just did a we just had a project open in Rhode Island Warwick Rhode Island, it was a Starbucks Chipotle orange here, great Pat. But we ended up having I think, you know, five dumpsters because he kind of one of their own, and they needed one for recyclables and stuff like that. So if you look at that, it’s like, why is there why there’s so many dumpsters and no requirements and trying to make it easy for everybody. So they can all have their they can have their own trash accounts, stuff like that. So

Ressa 38:04
awesome. Well, that was a phenomenal story. I really, really appreciate it. It’s a, it’s for this show. It’s a unique one. And we gotten into some stuff, we really don’t get into offense. So thank you. Really cool, Kevin.

Solli 38:23
Yeah. And I will say, you know, at the end of your podcast, you say, you know, if you have an interesting story, write in art, you know, when you say architects and developers and retailers, you don’t have engineers, and

Ressa 38:35
it’s just, it’s, for those out there listening. It’s anyone who’s involved in, you know, stores opening somewhere. And so I could I can’t list every single, there’s a gazillion that aren’t there. So that is not a that’s just for timing.

Solli 38:56
On behalf of engineers everywhere. I don’t take offense.

Ressa 38:57
All right, great. Perfect. So that brings us to the last part of our show, which is retail wisdom. And I want to ask you three questions. Are you ready? If you’ve listened, you know what they are? Yeah. First question, what is your best piece of commercial real estate advice?

Solli 39:28
So, you know, I’ve been fortunate to have a really good education on the commercial real estate side during lunch shopping center work, working with a lot of great people. And the biggest thing that I’ve learned is that this industry, like most is all about relationships. And that, you know, people like working with people that they actually enjoy being around. So, you know, from a from an advice standpoint, I’d say, you know, understand that relationships are what drives This industry, and that be genuine, because people can kind of see through the, you know, the Bs, and when you’re actually yourself and you do what you say you’re going to do, that’s what kind of makes makes true long lasting relationships. And the other. The other component of that is, I learned early on that, you know, at least in our industry, knock on wood life is long. And you may be trying to work with somebody, and there may not be an opportunity for a deal, right now, that doesn’t mean that in seven years, you’re not going to go you’re not, you’re not going to end up, you know, crossing paths with people again, and ending up being able to work with work with somebody, a lot of the, you know, I have a lot of good long standing relationships, some ebb and flow. But there, you know, there are a lot of people that I do a lot of business with now that I’ve known for 10 plus years, and didn’t necessarily turn into any real work until several years into that relationship. You know, I don’t I don’t, I don’t start relationships, because I’m looking for that instant gratification. It’s about that long term vision. And I think that’s something that, you know, really kind of sets people it sets people apart a little bit in our industry. Fantastic.

Ressa 41:14
The fan favorite, what extinct retailer, do you wish would come back from the dead? So,

Solli 41:22
you know, I wasn’t sure if they were actually extinct. So I googled them before this, this podcast, and I think they are, um, Damon’s restaurant. And I don’t know if you remember them, they were mostly up and down the East Coast, there was a place for ribs and a whole lot more. And I say them, because when I was, you know, 16 1718 years old, I worked there, and I was a busboy, and I was a host, and I was a waiter. And I got a lot of kind of customer facing experience there. And for me, that kind of set me apart, you know, that kind of like set my career because I was in that like, hospitality industry. And that’s, you know, as an engineer, as a consultant. I’m in a similar industry now. You know, I’m still trying to serve people and give them good service. So So Damon’s restaurant was, would be my extinct retailer, that would be good to come back.

Ressa 42:16
Awesome. Haven’t had that one yet. But no, the restaurant really, really appreciate the answer. And I would say, the interesting perspective on how you characterized life is long on the on the first one, so interesting. Perspective. Appreciate it. Last question.

It’s summer, people have been cooped up. Everybody’s looking to get outside and I am currently on Pottery Barn’s website, and I am looking at their Ibiza six piece sectional cushions, one corner five armless, left arm right arm Sunbrella

couch, outdoor couch, what does this retail for on their site and it is a limited time offer.

Solli 43:06
Pottery Barn exterior patio furniture. Go I’m going to either be really high or really low. I’m going to say 699.

Ressa 43:22
The soup to nuts one is 1894. So you were low, but thank you for playing.

Solli 43:30
Yeah, thanks. You know, I at least I think I don’t think I’ve heard anybody get that right yet.

Ressa 43:38
You’re not alone. I agree. You’re not alone. Well, listen, I really appreciate it. Thanks for coming on. This was great.

Solli 43:46
Thanks for having me, Chris. I appreciate it.

Ressa 43:49
Thank you for listening to retail retold. If you want to share a story about a retail real estate deal that you were a part of on our show. Please reach out to us at retail retold at DLC This show highlights the stories behind the deals from all perspectives. So it doesn’t matter if you are a retailer, broker, entrepreneur, architect or an attorney. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to retail retold so you don’t miss out on next Thursday’s episode.

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