You’re a commercial property owner or developer and you’ve just spent several months and a significant amount of money developing a landscape project to set your property and business apart from the competition, beautify the neighborhood, and win the hearts and minds of customers and community residents alike. The only problem is, the public isn’t as thrilled with your plans as you are.
A large expanse of turf utilizes the eco-friendly Black Beauty Tall Fescue and is surrounded by newly planted native trees – white oak and sugar maples – and inter-planted with shrubs and grasses to create a vibrant new landscape.
So how do you change a contentious outdoor commercial landscape project into one that’s embraced and supported by the public?
Convince the public that your landscape project has value for the entire community, not just you and your business. In all your presentations to town officials and the general public, lead and close with the most powerful argument you can make for why your landscape project has merit and will benefit the community. Does it beautify an otherwise unattractive part of town? Does it provide the community with a new restful or recreational asset that all residents can enjoy?
Play up the visual value of the project and demonstrate how your landscape project visually improves the community. If your project doesn’t have public features, such as walkways with benches that non-employees or customers can use, consider adding some to create a more welcoming environment. Use environmental function and beauty to disarm the opposition.
Embrace a larger population to ensure value outside of just your business. That means creating convertible space that easily accommodates group use as well as individual use. Be mindful of all people; young, old, and disabled. By increasing the community’s ability to use your space, you invite networking, new relationships, and the opportunity to foster friendships with and through the public.
Make your property as easy as possible to use. Build in features to encourage people to not only use your space, but also to linger in it. Ensure areas are comfortable, safe, and easy to navigate. For example, add seating, use ramps instead of stairs, and install strategic lighting to minimize dark areas and accent features to make them more attractive. Outdoor space that’s convenient, safe, and beautiful invites residents to make it their own and keep it nice.
Promote environmental value. The Sustainable Sites Initiative (SSI) was developed a number of years ago to provide guidelines for environmentally responsible landscape design and development. For example, parking lots can be a lightning rod for public opposition – a potential blacktop wasteland that replaces greenery and nature with an asphalt heatsink that raises ambient temperatures and sacrifices natural beauty.
The SSI was designed to help minimize the environmental impact of commercial development and promote cleaner air and water, erosion and sediment control, even pollination to encourage plant diversity and sustainability.
If your commercial landscape project embraces SSI values, be sure you promote that at every opportunity. Demonstrate to the public how your developed landscape (such as a parking lot) will:
- Protect against “heat island” affect
- Minimize water consumption
- Support biodiversity
- Apply responsible storm water management to protect aquifers
- Control light and sign pollution
In summary, swaying public opinion to support your commercial landscape project requires that you thoughtfully demonstrate the overall value of your project to the community and environment at large. To gain public support you need to persuade the public that you are a responsible landscape developer, an active community supporter, and a fierce champion of environmental responsibility. To drive your success home, be committed to long term care that will ensure that the spaces is well tended for many years to come.