By BECKY GILLETTE
Sometimes it can take a very long time after plans for a new business are announced before it opens its doors. Why does it take so long for a new business to get out of the ground? In fact, it is a complex process involving many different factors such a review and approval of plans, which might require a zoning change, availability of contractors, weather and financing.
A Half Shell Oyster House was announced in Madison with plans to open in the first quarter of 2018. But no dirt has been turned yet on the project.
Kevin Fish, vice president of operations and human resources for the Gulf Coast Restaurant Group, which operates the Half Shell Oyster House, The Rackhouse and Coast Foods, said there are many different factors that can impact an opening timeline.
“It starts with the developer, them getting their plans and often their permitting and financing in line,” Fish said. “Once they do and start building, we can usually get all of our permitting done while they are in that process so we can hit the ground running once they have our building ready for us. I’d estimate eight to nine months on their end, a max of one year unless they are fighting some extraneous issues. Once we get the building, we open in four months.”
But Fish said all that has nothing to do with the delays for Half Shell Madison because even though they have worked with three separate developers now on a total of six different sites, they still don’t even have a lease signed on a site.
“So the ‘one year ‘till we open’ time has not even begun to click on the clock,” Fish said.
Ken Wilbanks, director of building and permits, city of Madison, said a lot goes into the construction process including lining up contractors and subcontractors, permitting and even the favorability of the weather.
“Then sometimes it is also a matter of the amount of experience that they have in the business of building,” he said. “A lot of them come in and are ready, and a lot come in and don’t have all their plans ready. Sometimes there are items not anticipated in the budget like engineering fees. There are more issues than just getting a building permit. It takes a lot to get all that stuff from the drawing board to the ground.”
Ben Requet, assistant director of the planning department for the City of Oxford, said in addition to a development review period, there is also a building plan review where construction drawings are evaluated to make sure they are compliant with the International Building Code.
“That takes some time,” Requet said. “In the planning department, we spend time combing through plans submitted from the general site plan about where water and other utility lines go. Sometimes only partial plans are submitted to us, and that adds to the delay. The architect on the project might be from out of state. They may not be familiar with our process and procedures. Not everything is the same from one place to the next.”
Then after all the planning and permitting hurdles are passed, he said some projects end up having problems closing on the loan.
Andrew Ellard, director of urban development, Hattiesburg, said you can’t lump every project together.
“Every project has to be taken on a case-by-case basis,” Ellard said. “A lot of times, it depends on how much work has been done in the background by the company, the contractor or developer in terms of zoning or subdividing. They might delay in getting that work done if they want to keep details under wraps. But that can’t happen when you have to go to public meetings where details would become known earlier than wanted.”
Ellard said the City of Hattiesburg certainly tries to move every project forward as expediently possible, but it can take time. Sometime property where a project is proposed might require rezoning. Or it might require assembling several properties together.
“Not to mention, construction management itself is a complex task,” Ellard said. “Depending on the size and scale of the project, there is a lot that can go into it. We look forward to talking to any property owner with a project. We set it up in Hattiesburg to allow as much opportunity to go through planning, buildings, codes and engineering, and try to problem solve and help people through their concepts as early as possible. Sometimes developments might be very fleshed out before we hear of them and sometime people come with a vague concept and we might be able to point them in right direction to shape their vision.”
Ellard said it is certainly never their intention to make a project drag on, but when you get into zoning changes and complex projects such as subdivisions, there are formalized processes that have to be followed. Board of adjustments and city council approvals might be needed.
The larger the project, the more time it may take. Currently The District at Midtown is being developed that takes up one square block at 31st Avenue south of the University of Southern Mississippi.
“We are excited to see a mixed-used district of that size,” Ellard said. “We are thrilled to work with them to move that project forward. We expect to see some businesses open soon.”
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