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Lessons Learned: Lesson #4 – Don’t fall in love with (or marry!) your plan too soon

After exploring and evaluating dozens of opportunities, First Place® AZ made serious offers for the acquisition of two parcels of land prior to the purchase of the 1.4 acres where First Place–Phoenix stands today. All were urban-oriented locations. Designs were rendered and proformas created for the two former properties. The third—and current—property was definitely the best choice.

RSP Architects did an excellent job listening to our team, reviewing our research, participating in difficult discussions and crafting a beautiful plan that illustrated the design goals from our 2009 Opening Doors collaborative study and conveyed several key guidelines. With the financing package in place, an approved set of plans from the City of Phoenix and a ceremonial groundbreaking date set, we thought we were ready for nuptials!

Not so fast. The First Place board of directors and our closest advisors recognized that the cost of the building was greater than estimated, our nonprofit would be too highly leveraged and—unless we could demonstrate economic sense and financial sustainability—future properties didn’t look feasible. That’s when we pushed the “pause button” and took a six-month time out to re-assess and value-engineer, resulting in the reduction of $3 million from the original project cost.

That time out served us well. More importantly, we were able to recognize the need to step away to cool our ardor for our original plan, which resulted in significant savings and a sounder replication plan.

There are still a few spots left for the fall First Place Global Leadership Institute Symposium from October 24-26. This year, we’re co-hosting a real estate think tank with the Autism Housing Network and other leaders in the field, where we will address the ever-increasing demand for housing. Hope you’re able to join us—so many lessons we can learn from each other!

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