Key Considerations for Site Selection

Whether you have a site or building in mind or you are looking for a potential site or building for your project idea, you will need to give some serious thought to the suitability and practicality of a site or building for your project.

In many cases, the appraisal of a range of potential sites or properties will be one of the tasks undertaken through a feasibility study. In other cases, a feasibility study will assess the viability of a chosen site or property to deliver the project vision and may offer a number of alternate options for a single site.
Starting Your Search
If you are looking for possible sites or a building, your best starting point is to really get to know the neighbourhood where you plan to develop your project. You can do this by walking the area to get a sense of the “feel” or sense of place in different areas. Study local transit patterns (above and underground) and how these connect within the neighbourhood, as well as how they connect the neighbourhood to other parts of the city. Engage with the local community – they will have the local knowledge you need. This can be as simple as chatting to local store owners and meeting with the business improvement area (BIA) team. More formal community engagement techniques, including cultural mapping, interviews, community meetings and charrettes, will also provide the opportunity to solicit local advice and explore community interest in potential sites and buildings. You can also meet with local real estate professionals or engage a professional consultant to advise you.
Explore Publicly Owned Sites and Properties 
Ideally, in order to secure the development of a cultural/creative facility which can provide affordable work space, the property or land will be purchased at low or no cost or leased on a long-term basis for minimal rent. For example, Artscape leases the Artscape Wychwood Barns for 50 years less a day for $1 a year. This may well be a deciding factor in site selection for your project.
Make contact with all of the public sector land holders with an interest in your chosen areas including the local authority, other tiers of government (in Canada this includes the province or territory, the federal government and the Crown), the local school board(s), local police board, etc., and explore a range of options in your community which may include:
  • The adaptive reuse of surplus public sector-owned property.
  • The development of a new build facility on a developable surplus public sector site, either as a standalone facility or as part of a mixed-use development.


Site Selection Checklist

Ask yourself the following questions as you consider potential sites or properties:

  • Does the property or site provide sufficient scope to house the project as envisioned?
  • Does the property or site limit design options?
  • Would selection of the site or property impact the business case?
  • Is there a conducive planning/zoning framework in place? In some cases, if the project vision has a focus on particular areas of practice, such as industrial crafts, this requirement may need to be mitigated to accommodate for zoning, public nuisance and safety considerations.
  • What planning and fiscal incentives are available in the neighbourhood as a result of planning frameworks that might help with project development and operation costs? (To read more about planning tools and incentives see How Can I Use Planning Tools and Incentives?)
  • Is there likely to be an issue with contaminated land from a previous industrial use? What are the cost implications for remediation?
  • Have potential development partners with an existing or potential interest in the site been identified?
You might also want to consider if the property or site is:
  • In a location that strengthens existing creative and cultural businesses, activities and agencies in the local area?
  • Highly visible, well known and in an area with busy day and evening activity?
  • Located in a walkable area which is regarded locally as “safe”? Considerations will include quality of street lighting, quality of streetscape, urban design, etc.
  • Within safe walking distance of major residential and business communities in the neighbourhood?
  • Close to public transit?
  • Located in an area considered “uncontested” by the local community as a whole (i.e. taking into account “split” neighbourhoods, turfs, etc.)?
You should also consider questions of safety and accessibility for both tenants and for users and members of the public. Bear in mind that “sense of safety” and “close to pubic transit” were the two most important neighbourhood characteristics for workspace identified by artists and creative sector freelancers in Artscape’s survey (see Place Matters).