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I By SAMANTHA MEHLINGER Long Beach Business Journal T he Olson Company has built nearly 10000 homes in more than 100 cities across California in the past 28 years. Few companies have the knowledge about location construction and homebuyer preferences that Olson has. Building a community is a collaborative process a developers final concept reflects its own vision and that of the surrounding community potential residents the governmental entity with jurisdiction over the property and stakeholders. Shaping a vision that meets the needs and desires of these stakeholders takes time research patience communication and a great deal of due diligence. The first step in building a new community finding and purchasing a site often takes the most time according to Todd Olson President of Community Development forThe Olson Company.The greatest challenge in land acquisition is trying to find a piece of property that is in a location we have targeted as an attractive potential residential neighborhood Olson said. The Olson Companys communities incorporate the name Walk in their titles Ivy Walk in Claremont for example because the company is focused on building walkable connected communities. For that reason they seek out sites within existing larger communities that are surrounded by amenities in which to create their new communities. It needs to feel like a vibrant place where people want to live and enjoy the surrounding area Olson said. The Olson Company proactively seeks out locations for new communities working mostly within Los Angeles and Orange Counties. Oftentimes the land the company identifies as an ideal location for a new community is not yet for sale. For that reason finding a willing seller is one of the most challenging aspects in land ac- quisition Olson said. You call and make contact with the property owners and let them know you are interested in buying the site and maybe two years three years 10 years 15 years later they decide they want to sell. It can take that long Olson explained. The Ivy Walk community in the college town of Claremont was one such case. We worked on trying to buy that property for about 12 years before the owner was finally willing to sell Olson said. Another Olson community currently under construction Mission Walk in San Gabriel also took quite a bit of time to acquire. About five years ago Olson drove by the site which at the time was being used to manufacture Sriracha hot sauce and found it ideal for a new community. We reached out to the property owner through mutual connections to see if the land was available. At the time they had no interest in selling he recalled. Despite the landowners disinterest Olson was persistent and continued to touch base every so often to let him know that The Olson Company was still interested in the site. When the property owner decided to relocate his manufacturing facility he called The Olson Company. He immediately called us and said You have been calling Im interested in selling Olson said. And then we got to terms and now we are building Mission Walk not far from the historic San Gabriel Mission. Using this instance as an example Olson said that the key to pursuing a land purchase is measured persistence. You have to be persistent and patient. Once a developer enters into an agreement to purchase a property a great deal of due diligence is required to determine what kind of site plan architecture would be best for the location if the governing entity is amenable to such a plan and whether or not the location has proper infrastructure for new homes. Before designing a new community We do a lot of market research Olson said. We drive around a lot. We spend a lot of time looking at demographics of the area.We take a look at some of the things that have been built in adjoining cities and try to get an understanding of what seems to be working in the market and what seems to be not working he explained. We try to also tailor things to meet not only the demographics but also the planning issues that may be unique to the city Olson said. Your market research may tell you its a townhome market but the planning regulations may say you can only do single family homes he explained. In that situation We have to make some choices as to whether we want to do the project or not or whether we can design a single-family home that functions more like a townhome. During due diligence one of the things we try to confirm is whether the city or any jurisdiction that has The Process And Challenges Of Creating A New Urban Community 12 To work well with a city or other governing body such as a county or water district it is important to develop positive relationships with staff members. Todd Olson President Community Development The Olson Company Todd Olson serves as President of Community Development for The Olson Company 2015_OlsonCompanyInTownLiving_PortAnniversary 8815 117 PM Page 12