Retail in Lombard
“From Groundbreaking to Grand Opening: Retail in Lombard” is an information series that will cover the “how’s and why’s” of retail businesses in Lombard, and the Village’s role in business attraction and retention. The series will focus on the Economic Development efforts of the Village and factors that a business may consider before locating in Lombard.
The Village’s role in shaping development is to ensure that proposed businesses fit within specified zoning districts, meet building and zoning requirements, have adequate accommodations for parking and transportation, and meet other requirements that will make them a good neighbor and part of the community.
Getting Started – Available Resources
A new business may find it helpful to have a business plan which can help guide them in certain decisions. Businesses without a business plan can meet with the College of DuPage Small Business Development Center for assistance. The Helen Plum Memorial Library is another resource where you can conduct research and view business and customer databases. Businesses may want to engage the services of an attorney, real estate agent/broker, and/or an accountant to help throughout the process. An architect may be required for an interior build-out and if site improvements will be done (grading, parking lot improvements, new construction) an engineer may be required as well.
The Village is another resource. As the series continues we hope you’ll learn how the Village attracts and retains businesses, but also how the Village helps. Zoning, parking, signage, and building codes are just a few topics from our most frequently asked questions list.
Step 1 - Site Location Factors: Demographics, Access, Visibility, and Traffic
Demographics provide an understanding of the potential customer, for example, do they have income to support the price point of the goods sold, or does the area have a sufficiently trained workforce to hire employees from. When a business is considering locating in a community, they conduct extensive research on the market area before making a final decision. They will obtain demographic information on household income, daytime population and consumer spending patterns. Depending on the business and target market, the business may look for a minimum income levels or specific age groups. The goal is to understand where their potential customers live, work and shop before making a location decision.
For example, an established retail store may know that their customer’s median income is $75,000 a year, they are highly educated, and that they attract most customers from roads that have over 40,000 average daily trips per day. If a particular location does not meet these criteria, the site will not be evaluated for further consideration.
Businesses want to offer a product in an area where there is demand by the consumer at a certain price that the consumer is willing to spend for the product.
Some of the questions considered may be:
- How far away is the nearest competitor?
- In the trade area, is there consumer demand or are there already too many similar products offered?
- Will locating a store in this area hurt existing store sales?
Factors relating to accessibility, visibility, and traffic include the ability of delivery trucks to access the location, the ease in which customers can travel to the business, and other accommodations related to conducting business. Large corporate businesses may be bound to internal regulations as well, such as a minimum distance between existing stores. Some businesses may desire to be close to their competitors, and other may not.
Retailers want to be located where there are many shoppers, but only if that shopper meets the definition of their target market –which may differ amongst different businesses. Generally, businesses examine:
- How many people walk or drive past the location?
- Is the area served by public transportation?
- Can customers and delivery trucks easily get in and out of the parking lot?
- Is there adequate parking?
When considering visibility, businesses look at the location from the customer's view point. Can the store be seen from the flow of traffic? Will their sign be easily seen? In many cases, greater visibility reduces the need for advertising.
There are several factors a business weighs before deciding whether to locate in a community or market area. Many factors are beyond the Village’s control, but the Village can maintain a good understanding of market demands for retailers and promote locations that best fit their criteria. The Village has Census data online and can provide anecdotal information. However, the Village cannot promote one Lombard site over an another.
The Village has regulations to ensure a cohesive environment in many neighborhoods and to help maintain existing improvements. Before a business signs a lease or purchases property, it is important to understand the Village Code, policies and procedures related to the location. Businesses should contact the local municipality and Community Development staff to determine if their business is permitted in a particular location (the zoning district) and ask about signage, landscaping, and parking regulations. Those regulations, and others, can be found online in the Village Code.
A business may locate in an area that is permitted by right in the Zoning Ordinance, even if the neighborhood has existing competitors, or the business is considered less desirable. The Village regulates location thru the Zoning Ordinance. Some uses require zoning entitlements which requires the business to go before the Plan Commission and Village Board for final approval.
Businesses also may inquire about local requirements that may affect business operations such as utility requirements, infrastructure requirements and availability, future road improvements and surrounding uses.
Lombard’s Community Development Department can assist with zoning, signage, private engineering, and building codes. The Village regularly meets with developers and businesses before a permit is applied for to discuss specific regulations. These meetings can help the building permit process go smoother. Businesses that serve, make, or distribute food or beverage products will also want to engage the DuPage County Health Department to learn about their regulations.
Businesses that rent existing commercial space will need to evaluate expenses beyond paying for utilities and inventory costs. Besides base rent, they should consider other financial considerations including:
- Who pays for lawn care, building maintenance, utilities and security?
- Who pays for the upkeep and repair of the heating/air units?
- If the location is remote, how much additional marketing is required for customers to find the location?
- Does a business need to make any repairs or remodeling to have the location fit their needs?
- Will the business be responsible for property taxes or does the property owner take care of this?
- What are the costs for applicable licenses with the State, County, or Village?
- What building permits will be required and what are the costs?
Last, occasionally a decision will be based on emotion or other external factors. The Village can’t control this aspect, but it is important to recognize. A business owner may choose a storefront based on the distance from their home or because a location “feels right”.
The Village can ...
- work with our partners such as Lombard Town Centre, Choose DuPage, the State of Illinois, and the College of DuPage Small Business Development Center
- attend trade shows and conferences, such as International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC)
- promote available sites to real estate brokers and tenants
- maintain regular contact with developers and brokers to discuss new projects on both ends
Our meetings at conferences or regular updates don’t always result in a business locating right away in the community, sometimes it can take several years for companies to decide if they want to establish or expand their business in Lombard. Depending on the location, the business may need to meet with IDOT, the current property owners, and numerous other stakeholders. The Village takes steps to proactively meet with business representatives so that Lombard is positioned for these business considerations and that these businesses will have a direct contact at the Village to start the process. It should be noted that real estate brokers are often aware of the available sites in Lombard. Many times brokers call the Village, sometimes with a site in mind, other times to inquire about a general area. The Village also receives calls from prospective businesses to locate in Lombard. The Village can make them aware of available sites in the proper zoning district.
What doesn't the Village do?
- cannot choose the location for a business
- cannot allow a business to open, as long as the zoning and other factors have been met
- cannot control how many of one type of business opens
- cannot mandate a business plan (exceptions for Village grants)
The Community Development Department reviews and approves commercial construction plans through a building permit to ensure compliance with all building codes (building, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire, energy), and design requirements established by the Zoning Ordinance. Every project is different - a business may be looking to locate in an existing space or constructing a new building.
Small Commercial Projects
- examples are a new sign and minor improvements to an existing tenant space
- involves the submittal of a commercial building that is reviewed by staff
- as long as the plans do not need revisions, a small commercial project may receive final approvals in as little as 1 to 2 weeks
- examples involve constructing a new building and related site improvements
- representatives of the potential business may be required to submit a zoning application to the Community Development Department and have their plans reviewed by the Lombard Plan Commission with final approval by the Village Board (60-90 day timeline)
- examples include a business that is listed as a conditional use, a variance needed to build a new building or an addition, or a larger sign than Code allows
- permits may require involvement of an architect and engineer
The Plan Commission serves as an advisory commission to the Village Board and one of their primary functions is to review development proposals to ensure compliance with the Village’s zoning ordinance, subdivision regulations and the Comprehensive Plan.
Village staff proactively reviews the Village Code to make sure that local ordinances balance the community’s goals for high quality development with business needs. Occasionally, a text amendment is brought forth to the Village Board to change Lombard ordinances.
Another important component to the Village’s economic development efforts is meetings with local businesses or “business retention visits”. These meetings provide the Village with the opportunity to better understand the needs of local businesses and how the Village might play a future role in helping businesses expand within the community. This effort helps build relationships which are important considerations for a business deciding in the future whether to relocate or stay within the community.
Visits between Village staff and businesses provide companies with a local contact that can help address questions or future needs. After the business visit, Village staff provides follow up to any issues or questions that arise during the meeting.
Following visits, the Village remains in contact with the business, providing assistance when needed.
Sometimes business closures or relocations are out of the Village’s control. However, the Village’s commitment to local business success through retention visits benefits the community by helping to maintain a locally strong economy and an employment base for Lombard residents.
Contact the Village’s Community Development Department for more information at 630-620-5749.