I have worked with developers and commercial real estate firms on high profile projects. In working with them, and their team of consultants, I saw how important it is to engage key stakeholders early in the process of any mix-use development and project that has the potential to impact a community. I have also experienced this as the Communications Director for the City of Detroit and Press Secretary for the Mayor of Detroit. 

From the design stage to the public process in securing permits, in addition to raising capital and targeting potential retailers and other tenants, constant engagement is vital to the success of any project. In addition, developing strategic relationships helps to minimize risk and help anticipate barriers to seeing projects to their completion.  

Here are three simple tips every developer needs to know before announcing any high profile project:

  1. Get to know the key stakeholders who will support and oppose your project. This includes government leaders and community groups. Develop relationships with them long before you announce your project, to build trust, understand their concerns and find support later on – should you need it. 
     
  2. Meet with their leadership in advance to understand their concerns and be ready to respond to them if necessary. This will also help bolster your position during the public process in securing approvals for permits and variances. 
     
  3. Identify a reporter that would be interested in your project to share information and background with so that when you are ready to announce, it will be covered extensively. 

More specifically, here a three action items you should implement now and before you publicly announce your project:

  1. Create a website to gauge and solicit stakeholder input and encourage conversations from project stakeholders. This could help in generating ideas, set priorities and avoid risk to external issues later. It will also help bolster your position before city council in seeking necessary approvals.
     
  2. Directly engaging community groups to develop strategic relationships and support for projects early on in the process. This includes engaging members of city council directly on your vision and the merits of your plans well before you announce anything.
     
  3. Work with the media in educating others about the project.  This includes developing relationships with specific trade publications covering the development and construction industry to share information about the projects you are working on or recently completed.  By building up a portfolio, people will begin to trust you and the work you do in the communities you serve. 

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