MV+A Gets Deals Done – Entitlements

DESIGN BRIEF | July 2019

MV+A Gets Deals Done – Entitlements

Long before the ribbon cutting ceremony, projects may start with a napkin sketch or back of the envelope calculations trying to determine the viability of an idea. It’s commonplace to think that nurturing these nascent ideas in the studio directly leads to a completed project a few years down the road. In reality, the linear process from conceiving projects to starting design to getting them built often requires an additional step – usually referred to as “securing entitlements.”

While it may have been a rare project that needed to go through this phase in the past, it is becoming more and more commonplace and is being integrated as a usual first step in the project’s path to becoming realized. So, what are entitlements and how do they impact a project? We are hoping to shed some light on our experience with securing entitlements with the following two-part series.

Woodland Park Crossing Entitlements
Woodland Park Crossing Entitlements

PART 1:  Defining “en·ti·tle·ment”

/inˈtīdlmənt, enˈtīdlmənt/
noun
plural noun: entitlements

the fact of having a right to something.
“full entitlement to fees and maintenance should be offered”
synonyms: right, prerogative, claim, title, license

the amount to which a person has a right.
“annual leave entitlement
synonyms: allowance, allocation, allotment, quota, ration, grant, limit

Mcmillan Sand Filtration Site Redevelopment Entitlements
Mcmillan Sand Filtration Site Redevelopment Entitlements

There is no single reason or singular way in which this phase unfolds. Every jurisdiction has its own policies and regulations to be met. One reason could be the nature of single use zoning or preferential zoning where a few uses are favored in lieu of others. If you look around today, zoning laws frequently have not yet caught up with the idea of mixed-use development. Zoning laws tend to stay on the books for a long time, resulting in the mismatch between zoning laws and the reality of real estate development, construction and codes. Some zoning laws may allow too much or too little density but are out of sync with what building codes and established construction techniques allow in the industry. For example, being allowed to go higher than 85’ in a market where stick-built wood construction tops out at 85 feet is not necessarily helpful. Conversely, lower height limits do not maximize the efficiency of building stick-built wood projects where there is a market for additional density.

Riverdale Park Station Entitlements
Riverdale Park Station Entitlements

Many jurisdictions are requiring greater oversight for design on practically all projects – for example, Baltimore County’s Design Review Panel process or Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission’s oversight to ensure viable additions to their jurisdiction. Some developments trigger the requirement for entitlements when they are sited in specific locations, overlay districts, or are of a specific size or level of intensity, prompting local jurisdictions to want additional oversight of the design and planning. Generally, locales want to understand what public benefits a project will provide in return for added density. The paths to realizing projects vary depending on the jurisdictions, and they in turn determine how the design team approaches the entitlements phase of the project.

Halley Rise Entitlements
Halley Rise Entitlements

One of MV+A’s biggest realizations is that there is value to be added to the project in garnering reactions from a wide range of interested parties that are directly or indirectly connected to the project. Hearing from the public, city/county council persons, and administrative staff allows the design team to test the assumptions made during the early planning process and can help shape the project. In some cases, the ”wants” of a community are clearly spelled out, while in others, the design team has to use its experience and proficiency to help along the conversation to facilitate reaching decisions that most parties can agree add value to the project. But it’s not always smooth sailing or value-adding. Such engagements can be contentious, and the design team needs to be prepared for occasional disgruntlement and disappointment.

Woodland Park Crossing Entitlements
Woodland Park Crossing Entitlements

No matter the journey, this phase is not a get-through-it moment. It should be seen as the right time for the broader community to engage with the project and allow the design team to shape the project for a better outcome. At MV+A, we relish this process and have realized that engaging the broader community presents a unique opportunity for engagement and buy-in for the overall vision.

Stay tuned for Part 2 on Entitlements in next month’s design brief, which will shed light on MV+A’s experience with community engagement and its impact on the planning and design of our projects.

New Hires!

Quinn Tshudy

Quinn Entitlements
Quinn Entitlements

MV+A Role: Interior Architectural Designer with a current focus on East Liberty, Westwood, and Whole Foods Markets.
From: Erie, PA
Schooling: Bachelor of Interior Architecture | Chatham University
Certificate in Healthier Materials and Sustainable Buildings | Parsons School of Design
Joined MV+A: July 2018
Hobbies Outside of Work: Scenic design, salsa dancing, and yoga.

Nika Mirrafie

Nika Entitlements
Nika Entitlements

MV+A Role: Architectural Designer starting to work on 4 Choke Cherry Road and Rock Spring Center.
From: Salt Lake City, Utah
Schooling: Bachelor of Science in Urban Planning | University of Utah
Master of Architecture | University of Miami
Joined MV+A: July 2018
Hobbies Outside of Work: Painting abstract art, modeling making, cooking, skiing, hiking, and outdoor recreation.